Finding The First Green
Kids, parks, games, fun. Environmental stewardship, women in golf, STEM education. All were in play at the City of Los Angeles’ Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Van Nuys Saturday as the SCGA brought together the city’s Golf Division, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and The First Tee of Los Angeles to put on the first of what promises to be many “First Green” programs at LA’s parkland golf courses.
First Green is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education program begun in the State of Washington and as of July 1 assumed by the GCSAA to expand it to wherever golf, kids, and education intersect in America – an undertaking as ambitious as it promises to be impactful for communities and the game of golf.
“By turning golf courses into classrooms, the GCSAA hopes to make connections between classroom learning and the real world,” said GCSAA Southwest Field Representative Jeff Jensen.
By making the classroom a municipal golf course maintained by that rarest of breeds in the golf industry, a woman superintendent, the other participating organizations hope to make connections among communities, parks, and career paths.
Saturday’s details were as simple as they were impactful not just to the First Tee of Los Angeles participating kids, but to the LA City golf course maintenance professionals who acted as their docents.
The children were placed into three groups by age. The groups rotated among three separate stations, each of which focused on different curricula – water conservation & water sources, a day in the life of a golf course superintendent along with a heavy equipment display and a putting green session replete with a short course in hole cutting/setting and golf course etiquette.
The “water conservation & water sources” station included a flower planting exercise that was particularly popular with the kids – California friendly drought tolerant flowers, of course. All the stations included a tutorial on wildlife. Woodley Lakes is home to red-tail hawks, geese, migratory birds of various stripes, and multiple varieties of fish that swim in the course’s six natural ponds. And as to be expected wherever superintendents gather to discuss what they do, the kids were treated to voluminous information about the different species of grass that proliferate at Woodley Lakes and the role each of them plays in delivering an excellent playing experience to the course’s golf patrons.
The kids were roughly half girls and half boys, an equal mix that Los Angeles City Golf Manager Laura Bauernfeind is only too eager to point out is hardly the mix one sees in the golf industry. Not so in the City of Los Angeles, where the boss is a woman and four of the city’s seven golf course superintendents are women. A great image to convey to the young persons enrolled in The First Tee and a great image to convey to the next generation of participants in a game that constantly laments the dearth of women in its ranks.
Indeed, everything about the day conveyed great images to the kids about golf’s solid record of environmental stewardship, community integration and benefit, and intimate connection with public parks. And while this particular day’s exercise was mostly about those things, the kids weren’t allowed to forget that golf is a game best enjoyed with friends and family.
Saturday was a good day for the kids, a good day for the City of Los Angeles, a good day for The First Tee of Los Angeles, and perhaps above all else, a good day for golf. And that’s what SCGA’s tag line, “your passion – our purpose,” is all about.