11:29 PM

The First Tee of South Central Wisconsin brings more than golf


See how Learning Centers at The First Tee introduce children to golf while instilling important life values.


In 2015, The First Tee of South Central Wisconsin Learning Center at Cherokee Country Club in Madison, Wis. was created, thanks to funding from the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation. Today, the Learning Center provides tutors, healthy snacks and life lesson education during after-school hours to more than 200 kids annually. The First Tee also has learning centers at Vitense Golfland in Madison and Nine Springs Golf in Fitchburg. 

Each Learning Center location has a chapter of The First Tee, a nonprofit organization that introduces more than 6 million children to the game of golf and its many values, such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship.

“The First Tee is bigger than golf because of the core values that we instill in these kids,” The First Tee Program Director AJ Kriha said. “We’re so successful because we can carry conversations about values like integrity and honesty into different aspects of their life. Hopefully, they will draw on these core values instead of giving in to peer pressure.”

If not for the Learning Center, many children would never be introduced to golf or improve other life skills.

“Most of the kids in the Learning Center have never been exposed to golf,” Executive Director Joe Loehnis said. “They are now engaged with us 12 months, improving their reading, math skills and life education.”

“We work with teachers to select kids that need the program the most,” Kriha said. “We want to give kids experiences they would not have without The First Tee and have them make positive lifestyle choices.”

As part of the American Family Insurance Championship festivities, Wisconsin golf stars Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly and Andy North had planned to participate in a skills challenge with teams from the First Tee of South Central Wisconsin on Tuesday. The event was canceled due to inclement weather.

Photos are from the 2017 skills challenge