A $1.5 million addition to the western edge of MacDonald Park Golf Course will be a new hub for children's golf in Wichita. The project should take about a year to finish.
The planned campus is being created by The First Tee of Greater Wichita, which aims to give children the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of golf while building character.
The children’s campus will include a driving range with a 10,300-square-foot practice tee, 17 all-weather tees, a 6,000-square-foot putting green, a 3,000-square-foot chipping green, and a practice bunker.
It will eventually have a learning center with a programming and classroom area, hitting bays and swing analysis video and launch monitors, as well as offices for the program and other junior golf initiatives. The center will provide a place for children to work on homework and receive tutoring in addition to the golf lessons, said Nancy Compton, executive director of the program.
Although the campus will be open to the general public, Compton said junior golfers will have priority, and the learning center will be for golfers between 5 and 17 years old.
Work begins on the driving range early in June. In July, construction will begin on the campus’s parking lots. Seeding for the putting and chipping greens will begin in August. The program expects the driving range to be open for limited use by the fall and full use next spring.
The program is still raising money for the campus. After the money is secured, construction will start on the learning center. Compton said the program has identified lead donors for the campus, and she estimated the center would be built by this time next year. She would not say how much money has been raised so far.
Since its incorporation in 2016, the nonprofit The First Tee of Greater Wichita has grown to work with 52 area schools to help physical education teachers integrate golf lessons into their curricula. So far, the program has reached 21,000 children in the region. The chapter's six-week summer session starts June 5.
The national The First Tee program was founded in 1997 with the aim of introducing children of all socio-economic backgrounds to golf and teaching them the program’s nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
Children in The First Tee move through levels, starting with the player level intended for children who are at least 7 and culminating in the program’s ace level, intended for children entering high school.
The First Tee provides the equipment, and offers financial assistance to families interested in the program. It reaches more than 5 million children in all 50 states, with chapters at more than 1,200 golf courses and a presence in more than 10,000 elementary schools.
The chapter also welcomes volunteers, coaches and mentors. Individuals interested in volunteering can register on the program’s website.