A $10 million capital campaign for a trailblazing and futuristic-looking learning center for young golfers of Collier County is gaining velocity.
The First Tee – Naples/Collier chapter was founded by current Executive Director Cindy Darland with the support of co-founding sponsors Arthrex and Collier Enterprises in 2007. At the time, 30 youths participated in after-school mentoring programs; by 2011, there were 1,000 youths participating. First Tee is an initiative of the World Golf Foundation for the purpose of teaching the values inherent in the game of golf to children, especially to those who wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to the game and its positive values.
Since 2019, the local First Tee board began searching for a permanent place to call home—a place where kids could connect with their peers and mentors in a safe and fun learning environment. The organization had been meeting at various private golf clubs, but limitations restricted program growth and impact.
In 2021, Collier County Commissioners invited First Tee to join a newly planned public golf community that will include a BigShots Golf entertainment facility, as well as a 12-hole Nicklaus Design golf course. The board signed a long-term lease and plans began for a First Tee learning center. MHK Architecture & Planning donated architectural design services, and the board is busy planning fundraising events to get this much-needed resource open. To date, they have raised $3.5 million and anticipate breaking ground on the center this year.