NIPOMO - Building character and learning important life values is par for the course when it comes to the First Tee Program on the Central Coast.
Billy Gibbs has been named PGA Junior Golf Leader of the Year for Southern California beating out thousands of teaching pros between the Central Coast and San Diego.
As a golf professional Billy Gibbs has always wanted to teach young people about the game he loves.
When the First Tee Program was created 15 years ago, Gibbs realized he could also have a profound impact on a young person's life.
"We teach life skills that hopefully instill values", Gibbs says, "things like perseverance, honesty."
Including the Blacklake Golf Resort in Nipomo, Gibbs oversees a Central Coast First Tee Program that involves some 1200 teenagers and pre-teenagers.
"So our lesson plans always have a life skill involved with our golf skills", Gibbs says, "so our classroom is outdoors, the classroom is a golf course and getting kids away from video games and stuff was perfect."
The 9 Core Values are the foundation of the First Tee Program.
"Its not all about golf", says participant Owen Avrit, "it helps you learn life skills and the core values."
"That's how you want to live your life", adds Avrit's older brother Jack, "honesty, integrity, confidence, courtesy, judgement, respect, responsibility, perseverance and sportsmanship, if you can have those core values in yourself, your going to lead a good life."
"I can think of several instances when I took them from the golf game into the classroom and applied them just my other activities", adds First Tee Program graduate and college freshman Caitlin Murch.
Parents of kids in Gibbs' First Tee at Blacklake Resort are also convinced.
"I think my kids are learning some skills that are going to be good throughout their life", says parent Gary Weyel, "even if they don't play golf."
Gibbs says his Junior Golf Leader of the Year award is a reflection of doing something he loves and making a real difference in the lives of young people.
"Its proven, they've done these independent studies that show they are better students, they are better at home, they are showing great character and they want to go golfing", Gibbs says, "so we're building young golfers and great people at the same time."
The First Tee program has, so far, instilled life skills and character education in nearly 7 million young people across the country.
Financial assistance is available for those who need it, and for children of men and women in the serving in the military.
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