Oneida Indian Nation youth participated in the Nation’s First Tee program for the fourth consecutive year this summer.

First Tee is a nationwide program designed to instill young generations with life skills and core values through the game of golf. Eric Lorenzetti, head golf professional at Turning Stone Resort Casino, is proud of the progress the kids have made, not only with the clubs, but also in their personal development.

The program coincides with the Nation’s Summer Jam program, the popular long-standing youth program open to Oneida Members, Children of Enrolled Oneidas and Oneida Nation Health Services clients each summer. Participation in First Tee has grown each year, with more than 30 kids enrolling this summer.

“It’s amazing to see their growth from a skillset perspective,” Eric said after the kids finished playing Turning Stone’s Sandstone Hollow course. “And even if they don’t fall in love with the game right away, it’s easier to come back to it later in life.”

The program splits the kids into two groups for a two-hour practice session. One group stays at the Turning Stone golf dome to work on skills and the other group goes to Sandstone Hollow to play a nine-hole round. They also meet twice a week to reinforce the new concepts learned through fun, collaborative games.

Ashley Scott is a regular participant in the Nation’s youth activities and First Tee has become a favorite of hers. When asked what she liked most about golf she excitedly said, “Everything!”

That enthusiasm for the game can be seen as she works on her chipping and putting. Ashley offered up some advice from what she’s learned.

“Always keep your arms straight,” she said, demonstrating her grip with a V. “You can’t bend. And when you chip, don’t do a full swing.”

Ashley received brand new, fitted clubs for completing the program in 2015. All kids that finish the program receive new clubs at the end of their first year while returning kids receive vouchers for golf lessons or a round of golf.

Ashley’s practice partner, Yehnekiyosta Homer (Turtle Clan) gets her new set this year. “I can’t wait to get them,” she said.

First Tee has been successful in teaching kids the game of golf, as well as important life skills, such as etiquette, sportsmanship and personal conduct.

“First Tee is for the Nation’s youth. It’s all about them,” Eric said. “We teach them the fundamentals, proper etiquette and core values that they can take with them wherever they go.”