Oakland youth to be impacted by the collapse of First Tee

The Oakland chapter of one of the nation's most successful organizations that uses golf to teach life lessons has collapsed. 

That's sad. Because when youngsters step up to their first tee, they quickly learn that golf requires physical, mental and life skills.

The Oakland/East Bay Chapter of First Tee – one of five Bay Area Chapters – abruptly closed its doors Thursday. They’re no longer able to serve the disadvantaged, underserved and at risk youth. Sources close to the chapter say unsustainable fundraising efforts, plus over rapid expansion, did the chapter in.

Preston Pinkney, director of the smaller Oakland ACE Kids Golf Program, which today hosted young inmates from the Camp Sweeney Youth Authority, says the Oakland chapters demise is a huge loss for those First Tee served. 

"Golf is one those sports, one of the only sports where's there's no referee on the course," said Pinkney.

The heart and soul of golf is that you challenge yourself, not others. "You gotta practice honesty, integrity, self-respect, discipline, respect for the golf course, respect for yourself and respect for your coaches," said Pinkney.

The San Francisco chapter's website proudly shows how it measures success by showing what their kids say: "Thank you for teaching me honesty. Thank you for teaching me integrity. Thank you for teaching me sportsmanship. Thank you for helping me learn respect. Thank you for teaching me confidence. Thank you for teaching me responsibility." 

That kind of thanks will be muted in Oakland. Other Bay Area chapters are too far away and the Oakland Ace Program can't do much to help.

"We have a limited and fixed budget. We'd like to serve all the kids, but, at this time, we're not capable of providing those services," said Pinkney. 

If First Tee and all the good things it does is to survive in Oakland, then they're going to have to find the kinds of supporters that don't just support for a short time, but for the long haul. 

"And, what's kind of unfortunate now is that a lot of kids that were excited about the game, that found a new love for the game, now they have nowhere to turn to.  And so, therefore, we're just eliminating a whole population of potential golfers and potential positive citizens in the community," said Pinkney.

First Tee Chapters in San Francisco, Contra Costa, the Tri-Valley and Silicon Valley remain in operation.