ALBANY, Ga. -- The future of golf served as honorary starters as the First Tee Albany's Masters Cup Golf Tournament got under way Monday at Doublegate Country Club.
Twenty-eight teams of four players and more than 40 area companies contributed as sponsors to, as spelled out in the First Tee's mission statement, "impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf."
TFTA participants Lakese Brown, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Sherwood Christian School, and Joseph Anglin, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at St. Teresa's School, were the tourney's honorary starters.
"It (the program) has really helped me become a better person and player," Lakese, who has been with the program for nearly three years, said. "It's taught me about honesty and a good work ethic. I would definitely recommend it to my friends."
Joseph, who has also been in the program almost three years, agreed.
"I've had a really good time," he said. "I've liked meeting new people, and my golf game has really gotten better."
The program, of course, costs money, which is why First Tee Albany was holding the inaugural fundraising event.
"I am thrilled by the number of people and businesses that have contributed to our first tournament," TFTA Executive Director Burkett Carver said. "One hundred percent of the money we make will remain here locally. We started in 2005, and in almost five years have impacted more than 2,000 kids from seven to 18 in our primary service area of Dougherty, Lee and Mitchell counties."
Dr. Mike Cooper, the director of TFTA's Southeast Region Affairs, said events like the tournament serve more than one purpose.
"First and foremost, these tournaments help produce badly needed funding," Cooper said. "They also help us meet and gather with the local businesses and communities to bond and to tell our story.
"Many of our kids will later become contributors in our communities, become good citizens and promote golf."
Cooper then added, "You know, we hear all kinds of stories how kids are affected by us, but we often also hear stories about how our kids are having an impact on the adults in our programs."