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There's more to the game of golf than just teeing it up, hitting the ball and marking down your score.

Case in point: The First Tee of Woodbury County.

Its mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character and development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf.

Founded in 1997 by the World Golf Foundation, the First Tee introduces young people of all backgrounds to the game of golf and its positive values, from respect and integrity to individual responsibility and sportsmanship. Today, it is recognized as one of the premier youth character education programs in the country.

What makes the First Tee effective in building the positive character traits is The First Tee Life Skills Experience, a curriculum developed by experts in the field of positive youth development and delivered by trained coaches. Through this experience, participants learn to apply life skills and transfer positive values of golf to everyday life.

Participants learn to appreciate diversity, introduce themselves, manage emotions, plan for the future, resolve conflicts and develop step-by-step goals.

In recent years, Woodbury County and the First Tee of Omaha began an affiliation to provide the facilities and experiences that enable kids from every walk of life to participate.

Steve McGrory, a juvenile probation officer for Woodbury County for the past 20 years, started the First Tee of Woodbury County four years ago.

"I wanted to find something proactive instead of reactive with youth," said McGrory, who along with Jon Cleghorn and a number of other volunteers have worked feverishly to develop the program. "Golf is a good vehicle to do that with. I've always been a golfer and found out about The First Tee program.

"I would like to thank the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors for listening to me when I brought this up four years ago."

The First Tee of Woodbury County has grown from 14 kids in its infancy to 170. More and more young people have joined the program each year.

In fact, the program will be incorporated into the school curriculum this fall as the First Tee National School Program in Sioux City.

They meet for around two hours daily on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Floyd Park Golf Course and Thursday at Green Valley Golf Club. Scott Harmelink and the Green Valley/Floyd board have been gracious enough to donate their facilities for a great cause.

Equipment is provided for those who need it and to that end, a fundraiser will be held on Friday, July 16 at Green Valley. Entry fee for the 4-person scramble is $60 per person or $240 per team, which includes 18 holes of golf, cart and prizes. Dinner and an awards program follow the tournament.

Check-in is from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., with a 12:30 shotgun start. All proceeds go toward the First Tee of Woodbury County. To enter, or if you are interested in sponsoring a hole, contact Steve McGrory at (712) 251-3048 or Jon Cleghorn at 898-8595.

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