Daniel McKegney grew up in western New York and attended college in Ohio. He now finds himself near San Francisco, heading up The First Tee of the Tri-Valley, in Pleasanton, California. He took time out from planning TFT events and skiing to answer all of our questions.Before answering the questions, Daniel McKegney gave us this important news: One of The First Tee chapters is right in your backyard. The First Tee of Western New York has been teaching life skills and core values to young people in the area since 2000. Programs are held at the Harvest Hill Golf Center, the Concord Crest Golf Course, Holland Central School District Elementary Schools and more affiliate locations to come in 2012! To register the young people in your life for The First Tee classes, find out about volunteer opportunities or to donate please call 716-662-1980 or visit: thefirstteewesternny.org.
1. Let’s work backwards a bit, to see where you are before we find out how you got there. How old are you and what are your responsibilities at The First Tee of the Tri-Valley?
I am 26 years old, although I don’t feel very far removed from my younger years back in Buffalo. As Executive Director of our local The First Tee chapter, I oversee all facets of our non-profit organization.
I am the single, full-time staff member of our organization working for its Board of Directors to administer character-educating golf programs and ultimately grow the sport of golf in our region. My large responsibilities entail managing program staff and volunteers who operate our year-round programs, executing a diverse amount of fundraising events, initiatives and grant programs, growing community partnerships with other local youth serving organizations, marketing our youth opportunities and serving as a liaison with the local cities and school districts.
2. Where is the Tri-Valley, how did you end up there and what do you like most about it?
The Tri-Valley is an Eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California.
In my first position out of university, I was working for the United States Golf Association in its foundation office in Colorado Springs, CO. In this role, I distributed grant funds and administered best-practice consulting among numerous junior golf-focused non-profit organizations across the country. After this two-year position concluded, I applied to a number of organizations and of those interested in me as a candidate I was most excited about the opportunity to move to the State of California.
Although I am excited to someday move to a larger city, I love living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The weather is great of course. I really enjoy living in such a diverse place. There are people of all different ethnicities and cultures, as well as folks who have moved here from countries all over the world. I believe the best part about living here is being so close to so many different exciting places. Beyond the outstanding cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley, Napa, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Redwoods National Forest and of course Monterey are a short drive away.
3. Tell us about The First Tee. In 300 words or less, what are its tasks and goals?
The First Tee is a leading youth development organization reaching millions of young people across the world. Through its mission of teaching life skills and character education through the game of golf, The First Tee is having a positive impact on participants, their families and their communities. Since 1997, The First Tee has introduced golf and its values to nearly 5 million participants in all 50 states and at six international locations. Life lessons are taught at The First Tee while students are engaged with the game of golf and begin learning the sport’s etiquette. Through its Nine Core Values and Nine Healthy Habits and The First Tee’s proven curriculum, it is making a difference on the golf course and in over 4,500 elementary schools nationwide.
The First Tee of the Tri-Valley is one of the 200 chapters, serving individual families and youth-serving organizations across Alameda County in Northern California. We are proud to say that we have improved the lives of over 3,000 local youth since our chapter’s founding in 2005. Our goal is to make The First Tee programs more than about the game of golf, and more importantly about what the game can teach us. We have had many adolescents receive college golf scholarships after graduating through our programs, however their golf skills are not what make our chapter leaders most proud. We take pride in our participants applying what our character-building programs have taught them. Our graduates excel as captains of their golf teams, are confident on national television, speak intelligently about their goals and demonstrate optimism for the future.
4. Describe the typical volunteer at The First Tee and how she/he contributes to the development of the young people.
The First Tee chapters could not survive without our volunteers. Volunteers fall into two categories with our organization: Program Volunteers and Event Volunteers. Program Volunteers are typically local golf enthusiasts looking to give back, retired professionals, parents or grandparents of participants and donors. Event Volunteers are made up of board members, their family members and organizations like NCL (National Charities League). Both integral parts of any non-profit, decreasing staffing costs to allocate a larger portion of funds raised to participant access and impact programs costs.
5. Can you give us a few success stories about youth that you’ve seen personally? You can change their names to “one girl,” “this boy” and “another young lady.”
The most heart warming experience I have witnessed since working in junior golf occurred at my job with the United States Golf Association. I was the coach of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind Golf Team in 2008 & 2009 and it was so inspirational to see the enjoyment these young people had from playing a sport many of us take for granted. The thing that blew me away the most, occurred when we would be short on volunteers and sign-language translators at golf team practices. The blind students would begin signing for the deaf students and on other occasions a deaf golf instructor would explain something to the group and the deaf students would move the fingers of blind golfers so they didn’t miss a beat. Helping each other out did not stop there, the students helped each other with alignment, grip and most importantly by encouraging commitment to golf and celebrating great shots.
6. Predict for us your dream direction for The First Tee of the Tri-Valley. Where do you see it (and you) in three to five years?
The organization has come a long way in six years and we hope that those years upcoming continue to see us increase our reach in the local community. We began installing school programs just this past Fall that will hopefully reach 3,000 students a year in addition to our other core programs. Golf Inclusion is a larger goal of our leadership. We are focused on growing the sport to not only young people, but in addition, individuals with physical or mental disabilities as well as stroke and heart attack victims. Through partnerships with local school districts, Special Olympics, Easter Seals and the American Heart Association (to name just a few our partners) facilitates a diverse group of people enjoying the sport and learning from its lessons.
The parent The First Tee organization has recently embarked on a goal to reach 10 million new young people between 2011 and 2017. When achieved, this goal endorsed by the World Golf Foundation, the United States Golf Association, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour, the biggest endorsing partners, will change the face of the sport forever and have a positive impact on the minds and bodies of a sizeable portion of America’s children.
7. Tell us about college, where you went, your major, what you did there to further focus you in on this career path.
After graduating from Nichols in North Buffalo, I ventured to Granville, Ohio to attend Denison University.
For the business-enthusiastic student I was at the time, a liberal arts college like Denison didn’t provide many classes teaching specific skills I use on a day to day basis now running a business on my own. Having said that, taking nine economics, nine chemistry, and a countless number of other classes from disciplines across the board really taught me to problem solve in creative ways. Mastering a week of business classes would not have provided the same learning experiences and academic perseverance I developed at Denison. On a weekly basis, administering socio-anthropology papers, economics tests, biology lab reports and most importantly learning the differing writing skills and teaching style associated to each class of this varied course load made a lasting impact on my productivity and effectiveness in handling multiple varied projects as many of us graduates now do in our careers.
After four years at Denison, I gained the confidence to find success in any challenge and obstacle I’m faced with on a day to day basis. This attitude I fostered in college has certainly proven more beneficial than learning the in and outs of accounting or the marketing skills to grow the public profile of a business. I have learned these skills by doing and learning from the best, as I have 26 successful and influential board members to teach and provide feedback on my work.
8. Growing up, what did you learn along the way that suggested that athletics would somehow be part of what you’ve chosen (so far) for a career.
I was never dead-set on a specific career or even industry but always knew I was a business-minded individual. In academic and work settings I learned early on that I was driven to be a leader and thrived in managerial roles. Being an Executive Director for a sports-oriented organization is icing on the cake.
I have always loved playing and watching sports; hockey, lacrosse and golf being my favorites. I feel so fortunate that the two full-time positions I have held so far in my career have been associated with large sports organizations. My familiarity with sports and specifically my experience in youth sports have made it easier for me to jump in to the work force with confidence and optimism that I can make an impact and the organizations I manage will be successful.
9. How’s your game? What parts of it are stellar and what parts need work?
All of my game needs work, ironically I don’t play enough. I have technically been working in golf since high school, I worked at Westwood Country Club back in the day. Even then, when I had a day off work, the golf course was the last place I really wanted to be. Its strange how “annual” my game is. I have seasons where I stripe it down the middle off the tee all day and then other seasons where I hit it further left and right than the beginners I teach golf to.
I feel in love with the sport playing with my father and can confidently say I know him better and have a better relationship with him due to the hours we spent together in the golf cart and on the greens.
10. What question haven’t I asked, that you would love to answer ? Ask the question and give us your answer.
What are the favorite golf courses you have had the opportunity to play? Also, what courses are on your golf bucket list?
1. Brierwood C.C., Hamburg, New York
2. The Broadmoor Resort, Colorado Springs, Colorado
3. TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
4. Taboo Resort, Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada
5. Wente Vineyards, Livermore, California
1. Buffalo Country Club, Williamsville, New York
2. Pinehurst Resort & Country Club- No, 2, Southern Pines, NC
3. Cypress Point Golf Course, Pebble Beach, California
4. The Royal St. George’s Golf Club, Sandwich, Kent, UK
5. The Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia