By Design – Issue 63, Fall 2023

32 EDUCATION The First Green program started in 1997 in Seattle, Washington, from a conversation between a golf course superintendent – who was also a high school golf coach – and a local teacher. They were talking about how students might understand the game of golf but not what goes into caring for a golf course. They decided to create some lesson plans and started organizing field trips to golf courses. With that, the First Green program was born. Fast forward to August 2018, and the executive director of the nonprofit foundation that had been established to look after First Green, which mainly operated in the northwest, was about to retire. The board decided to contact the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) to see if we could help keep the program going. We assumed responsibility for the program, with a view to not just keeping it going, but to grow it too. We had a successful 2019, with over 40 field trips, before an understandable slowdown thanks to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. We began 2022 with renewed vigor, marketing First Green to our members and getting them to sign up their clubs for involvement. We’ve had over 10,000 students making field trips throughout the United States and Canada. First Green really is a partnership between the GCSAA, golf clubs, and schools or youth groups. When we’re working with a public school, we ask the students whether they have been to a golf course before. Typically, about two-thirds of them have never set foot on one. So it’s great for the golf industry – especially in terms of awareness – for us to introduce children and their chaperones to golf courses and potential careers in golf. A typical field trip will see children, usually from fifth, sixth and seventh grades, visiting a golf course where we have set up a number of learning stations, each covering a different subject matter. Say we have one hundred kids and four stations, we’ll split them four ways and then rotate them every 20 minutes or so. We keep the students in smaller Leann Cooper provides insight into the GCSAA First Green program and its positive impact on the golf course industry. Inspiring the next generation Leann Cooper Leann Cooper is a senior manager of GCSAA’s First Green program and workforce development department.