FORT WORTH -- It'll be reading, writing and chipping at Briscoe Elementary School this fall.
Eleven unused acres at Briscoe's campus in southeast Fort Worth will soon be converted into a 14-station driving range complete with putting greens, two sand bunkers and a classrooms for life skills lessons.
The Fort Worth school district is teaming up with First Tee of Fort Worth on the project, an investment that is expected to pay off in academics and sports.
First Tee also teaches golf to students at summer camps and presented a free golf clinic -- with Nike -- at this year's Dean & Deluca Invitational PGA stop at Colonial Country Club.
Students at Briscoe and four other nearby schools will participate First Tee's national program, which uses golf to reach and teach young students life skills lessons based on nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
Other schools that will have access to the First Tee program include: Carroll Peak Elementary, Van Zandt Guinn Elementary, Morningside Elementary and Morningside Middle.
"It's a small piece of a larger project," said school board Trustee T.A. Sims, whose District 4 includes schools in the Morningside community.
'A driving range for kids'
Sims said combining resources with First Tee is expected to build on the Morningside Children's Partnership, a program funded by the Rainwater Charitable Foundation which aims to improve academic achievement by focusing on youth needs from "cradle to career."
First Tee of Fort Worth has a budget of $360,000 to construct and operate the project for the first two years and is working with the Rainwater Charitable Foundation for funding.
The majority of the students in the Morningside community are on free or reduced lunch programs and about 60 percent are considered at-risk students.
District 9 Trustee Ashley Paz said the project brings new resources to a part of the city that has been neglected in the past. She said providing this program is "a huge step in changing that narrative."
School board members voted unanimously last month to approve the project, which allows First Tee to use grant from the Rainwater Charitable Foundation dollars to build a driving range on the Briscoe campus. Under a lease agreement with the First Tee, the youth golf program pays the district $1 a year for 10 years to lease 11 acres that have been sitting unused, said Arturo Cavazos, chief of operations for the school district.
"Basically, it is going to turn it into a driving range for kids," Cavazos said. "It's not going to be for adults."
'It's a wonderful idea'
Students in Fort Worth schools have already been participating in the First Tee program, Cavazos said. They are typically bused to after-school golf programs at the city's Rockwood Golf Course on Jacksboro Highway.
The Curtis sisters are a testament to the success of First Tee.
Peyton, 10 and Carly, 8, said they are learning skills that work on the course and in the classroom. The sisters were practicing on Tuesday at Rockwood Golf Course in Fort Worth.
"You have to live with integrity," Peyton Curtis said. "You have to be focused."
Peyton Curtis's role model is professional golfer Angela Stanford, who played golf at TCU. Peyton, 10, said she is practicing because she wants to play at TCU, too.
Michael Matthews, 17-year-old a senior at Brewer High School who lettered in golf, said he started participating in the First Tee when he was 8. He was inspired by golf professional Tiger Woods. Matthews said he continues to participate in the program, which he said builds "values you can use in life as well as on the golf course."
Matthews said he likes the idea of taking the driving range directly to students who wouldn't otherwise have access to the First Tee program.
"I think that it's a wonderful idea to give everyone the opportunity to play golf no matter what their financial situation," he said.
District will provide portable building
While First Tee is responsible for the construction of the driving range, the Fort Worth school district is providing the land and will finance the portable building that will be used for classrooms.
The district estimates it will spend about $25,000 for a portable building and an estimated $2,000 per year on water and maintenance for the driving range, Cavazos said.
"This is a perfect opportunity to take a piece of property that has been sitting there for many years and leverage it," Cavazos said.
4,000 - the estimated number of children living in the Morningside community.
Brian Harris, director of development and public relations at the First Tee of Fort Worth, said the project allows them to bring golf and character-building lessons to students who might otherwise not be able to access them.
Harris said golf teaches youngsters sports and ethics, noting that golfers are responsible for keeping their own scores and calling penalties against themselves. Youngsters can also develop a passion for a sport they can play for decades.
"Golf is a sport that is accessible to everybody," Harris said.
This article was written by DIANE SMITH from Fort Worth Star-Telegram and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.