Andrew Bennett is the Executive Director of The First Tee of Western New York. 2015 will be an exciting and innovative year for the program and Andrew shares a bit of the news with us in this interview.

1. Tell us about yourself, your golfing life, and how you involved yourself with The First Tee of Western New York.

I grew up in Tonawanda playing Brighton and Sheridan.  I have lived in several places, including North Carolina, Florida and Rochester.  My greatest passion, other than family and helping kids, is Ireland.  I have traveled to the Emerald Isle eight times since 2000.  Links golf is something I truly love and would play everyday if possible.

I am married to my best friend, who is just an exceptional woman.  She has dedicated her career to providing therapy to children on the Autism Spectrum.  She’s an inspiration for my job and the work we do at The First Tee to help young people in need.  We have two wonderful little ones, ages 2 (son) and 3 (daughter).  My wife and I live in Amherst.

I played high school golf at St. Joe’s.  I ended up not playing collegiately and then entered the professional golf business post-college.  I worked at some great clubs (Oak Hill, Crag Burn, McArthur G.C. – FL and Old Chatham G.C. – NC) and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

I became involved with The First Tee through a colleague at the United Way.  I had been working on the campaign team with the United Way of Buffalo & Erie Co. in 2012-2013 and the position opened with TFTWNY in the summer of 2013.

2. Give us a two-paragraph summary of TFT: one on its history and one on what it does.

The First Tee was a creation of several key organizations in the golf industry and was founded in 1997.  The original focus was to provide exposure to young people who otherwise wouldn’t experience the game.  In 2004, the National School Program was developed to bring TFT programming into school.   The NSP is now in more than 6,000 schools nationwide.  Today, The First Tee’s goal is to provide character education and life skills programs to help young people from all backgrounds to be successful in school and in life. The following founding partners play a key role in creating awareness and providing support for The First Tee and our youth development goals:

In addition to learning fundamentals of the golf swing and the game, TFT’s character education and life skills programs help kids and teens prepare for success at school, at home and in their community.

Our Junior Golf & Life Skills Curriculum Focuses on:

  • How to manage emotions
  • How to set goals
  • How to resolve conflicts
  • How to communicate with others

The key element of TFT that separates it from other youth development programs, particularly in the golf business, is the Life skills curriculum.  The curriculum is based on research and was created by some of the country’s experts in sports psychology and youth development.  The program is intentional in the delivery of life skills to participants.  There is a system we use to instill these values and to progress kids through the curriculum.

Independent research confirms the youth development programs delivered through The First Tee’s chapters instill life skills and core values in youth participants. Highlights from the study include:

  • Participants unanimously identified school as a setting in which they transferred life skills.
  • 73% reported high confidence in their ability to do well academically.
  • 82% felt confident in their social skills with peers.
  • 57% credited The First Tee for their meeting and greeting skills.
  • 52% credited the program for their ability to appreciate diversity.

At the Chapter level, we know there are kids in every corner of WNY who could benefit from the program, and we intend on providing opportunities to them, especially those most in need.  And with our new partnerships, we have a wonderful opportunity to reach hundreds, if not thousands of more kids in the coming years.

3. Tell us about the various sites for TFTWNY and what each site offers to its community.

Our Chapter is authorized to operate TFT programming in the eight counties of WNY.   Any and all TFT programming in these counties must be authorized by me and our Board of Directors.

This year, we are beginning programs at Grover Cleveland and Elma Meadows golf courses through a partnership with the Erie Co. Parks Department.  The Grover site will offer students from Buffalo Promise Neighborhood and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo summer programming opportunities though a grant we received from the Buffalo Bills Youth Foundation.  Elma Meadows will provide programming opportunities for young people in the Elma, Marilla, Wales, East Aurora, and Lancaster communities.

We are also starting programs at Brighton in Tonawanda in partnership with the Tonawanda Parks & Recreation Department.  We have been running our National School Program in four Kenton School this school year.  We are excited to transition students into our core program.

We will continue programming at our Orchard Park location, Harvest Hill.  In addition, Shorewood C.C. in Dunkirk and Niagara Frontier in Youngtown have come on Board as location to offer TFT programming.   We are excited to be working with these new facilities and expanding our programs throughout WNY.

4. How do the nine core values and nine healthy habits form the core of TFT’s program?

The Nine Core Value and Nine Healthy Habits are the backbone to the program.  We like to say TFT is not a golf program, rather a development program that uses the game of golf to teach values and skills kids will use for the rest of their lives.  The Nine Core Values are values we all use, everyday.  What a great way to learn these values – on the golf course!  Both the Nine Core Values and Nine Healthy Habits are seamlessly woven into the lesson plans for each class.

For example, an entire class (90 mins) can focus on sportsmanship, teamwork and showing respect for yourself, others and your surroundings (the course).  Coaches then tie these concepts to activities/situations off the course and the participants are able to link what has happened in class to school and everyday life.

5. On May 18th, TFTWNY will host the first Kids First Golf Classic at the Park Club. Tell us about it.

This event is our largest fundraiser of the year.  This is the first year at Park C.C.  We are thrilled to offer the experience of playing Park to our sponsors.  This year, for the first time, we are hosting a clinic for inner city students the morning of the event at Park C.C. To learn more or to sign up, visit

6. You mentioned some other new initiatives for 2015. Might you go into detail on them?

We’ve received two grants that will allow us to expand the program in ways the Chapter has never been able to do.  The Chapter has set a new vision, on that focuses on specifically reaching and helping kids in need throughout WNY, particularly in the City of Buffalo.

We have also been running Saturday classes at the Paddock Golf Dome in partnership with the Tonawanda Parks & Recreation Department.  We have had a great turnout, with over 25 kids participating, most of them new to The First Tee.  We hope to continue this program in the fall and winter months this year and into 2016.

We will also be partnering for the second straight year with TFT Corporate Partner, PwC.  Our local PwC office provides classroom style learning for TFT participants through a fun and interactive curriculum.  Participants learn about banking, credit, student loans, and other important financial topics that will be critical in the near future.  We hope to expand this program as well.

Tapestry Charter School in North Buffalo is beginning TFT National School Program this April.

Other projects will be coming up as our expansion continues to more schools and neighborhoods.

7. Imagine I’m someone in my adult years who wishes to support The First Tee. How might I get involved?

First, monetary support.  Second, donating time.

As a non-profit, the greatest ongoing need is funding to operate and grow programs.  We have an easy donation process online through our website,  Just Click DONATE on the home page.

We also enjoy working with families who wish to leave a legacy gift in honor of a loved one.  In, this case we will work with the family to distribute funds as desired.

We also have opportunities for business to get involved, promote their company and its values, all while supporting kids in the community.  For more information, please call Andrew Bennett at 510-9660.

We know that many people enjoy giving back with their time, and here we have many opportunities to help the program.  With new program locations, we are in need of new volunteers.  Please visit our website for more information on volunteering or call our Director of Programs and Instruction Patty Jordan-Smith at 250-3355, option #4.

8. Tell us a bit about The Nature Valley First Tee Open, an event on the PGA Tour’s Champions Tour, that takes place on the Monterrey Peninsula. Have we had local participants and how have they fared?


9. What questions haven’t I asked, that you wish I had? Ask them and answer them, if you please.

Q:  What are the programs offered by the Chapter?  And where are they taking place?


  • Life Skills Experience – Spring & Summer @ golf facilities
  • Brighton
  • Grover Cleveland
  • Elma Meadows
  • Spruce Ridge
  • Harvest Hill
  • Shorewood C.C.
  • Niagara Frontier C.C.


  • National School Program – delivered during physical education classes at elementary and middle schools.
  • Franklin Elementary & Middle Schools (Kenton)
  • Hoover Elementary & Middle Schools (Kenton)
  • Westminster Community Charter school (East Side)
  • Tapestry charter School (North Buffalo)
  • Buffalo United charter School (Behind Bennett H.S.)


  • DRIVE After-school program – delivered at youth serving organizations
    • Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo


Q: What is the organizational structure of the Chapter?


  • Volunteer Board of Directors
  • Full-time Executive Director
  • Full-time Program Director
  • Part-time coaches


Q:  How is the Chapter funded?


  • Local grants
  • Fundraising events
  • Participant fees
  • Individual donations
  • Memorial donations