First Tee – San Francisco’s impact on the youth is made possible by those who put forth their time and effort to benefit our youth. These are our Game Changers, the engine behind the First Tee – San Francisco
Reola Freeman was a former microbiologist for the Marines, and a golf coach who touched many lives, especially within San Francisco’s youth community. She started a program in the 1980’s, exposing young African Americans in San Francisco to the game of golf. She taught weekend classes on the First Tee–San Francisco driving range, even before First Tee owned/operated on the land. When First Tee–San Francisco was founded, she partnered her golf program with the First Tee’s, making sure that the city wouldn’t deny kids access to the game of golf. Reola’s program lived on until 2008, and her students fully transitioned into First Tee–San Francisco’s program . Reola passed away in May 2011 at the age of 91, but her memory, impact and legacy in the San Francisco community continue to live on.
Dr. Tony Anderson
Dr. Tony Anderson was an educator for 36 years in the SFUSD, spending time as a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent. In 2005, he retired and picked up the game of golf. One day, while playing the Fleming 9 Course, he noticed a group of First Tee kids at the course and was inspired to get involved. Noticing the lack of diversity within the First Tee program at that time, Dr. Anderson worked with First Tee’s staff to develop an outreach plan that would bring First Tee programing to low-income areas. With Dr. Anderson’s help, First Tee integrated their in-schools program in the Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley communities.
Dr. Anderson credits First Tee for teaching kids interpersonal and self-management skills as well as the importance of values like respect, honesty, and integrity. Dr. Anderson’s favorite memory with First Tee was when he took a group of kids on a field trip to Harding Park to watch a practice round at the 2009 Presidents Cup:
“As soon as we arrived, Tiger Woods was passing through and the kids went ecstatic. It was great to see the excitement and smiles on their faces.”
Dr. Anderson believes that First Tee gives participants a great opportunity to meet other kids their age and more importantly have fun! When asked if he had any advice for the younger generation Dr. Anderson replied, “Try something different, try something that you may not have experienced and see what happens.”
Dennis Westry grew up in the Bayview-Hunters Point district of San Francisco. He was known as a troublemaker growing up, but was an excellent athlete. He spent time as a longshoreman, getting back in touch with his life values. Dennis returned to the Bay Area in his late 20’s and took on the challenge of guiding young people. He wanted to ensure they would not make the same mistakes he made when he was younger. Dennis became a school counselor and truancy officer for the San Francisco Unified School District. At the same time, he became an instrumental member of the First Tee team, increasing awareness of the Future Foursome program and creating more golf access for the youth in the Bayview-Hunters Point district of San Francisco.
Dennis’s favorite First Tee memory was when he was playing golf with his son at TPC Harding Park and saw an African American man dressed in a suit on the course. Dennis was always into dressing up, so this caught his attention. The man was Tareyton Russ, the principal at Willie L Brown Jr. College Preparatory Academy. Dennis approached him, introduced himself, and the rest is history. Dennis first became involved as a First Tee outreach coordinator, checking in on each participants academic progress. Later, Dennis became very influential in creating awareness for the Future Foursome program.
Dennis believes the core values of the First Tee organization helps kids learn many important life lessons, on and off the course. He feels that honesty and integrity are some of the main values that the participants hold near and dear to them.
Jonathan came across the First Tee – San Francisco in 2004 while playing golf at TPC Harding Park during his college years at SF State. At the time, Jonathan saw a trailer at the course and walked up to see what it was. The trailer ended up being the first ever “classroom” for First Tee – San Francisco, as the program was just beginning. As First Tee was looking for volunteers, Jonathan approached at the perfect time, and started to volunteer. He then transitioned to part time role a couple months later. During the fall of 2005, Jonathan met with the executive director of First Tee – San Francisco and was offered a fulltime position. The last 17 years working with First Tee – San Francisco has been everything and more for Jonathan. He enjoys going to work every day and getting the chance to positively impact the youth of San Francisco. As one of the founding First Tee – San Francisco employees, Jonathan was very instrumental in the getting the Future Foursome’s program up and running.
One of Jonathan’s favorite memories was representing First Tee – San Francisco in 2005, when AT&T donated to 5 non-profits at a San Francisco Giants game. Jonathan received the award during the game, followed by a banquet attended by members of the Giants team and organization. During the banquet, Jonathan was responsible to say a couple words about First Tee. When Jonathan was getting announced by one of the Giants executives, the executive described First Tee exactly how Jonathan was going to. So, Jonathan, on purpose took a longer route to the stage to think of some new talking points.
First Tee teaches many important values to its participants, including the program’s Nine Core Values. Jonathan believes that respect and perseverance are two key core values and are extremely important to everyone’s everyday life.