GAFFNEY, S.C. (WSPA) – The First Tee National Program is in action at Corinth Elementary in Gaffney, utilizing the physical education class to introduce golf fundamentals to students.

P.E. teacher Rhonda Clary has been implementing the program since it came to the school nearly one decade ago.

“I began to see smiles on faces,” said Clary. “‘Miss Clary, miss Clary, the ball went in the air!’ I said, ‘well that’s what it’s supposed to do, that’s what I’m trying to get you to do with the club’…They were just amazed that they could make a tennis ball [or] golf ball do those kinds of things.” 

The course includes foam mats and plastic golf clubs as the kids aim to hit tennis balls at a soft velcro target.

“She’s taught me a bunch [even] before I got interested in it,” said fifth grader Ansley Turner. “She’s taught me more.”

Turner developed that interest when she was six and said that Clary’s teaching of the program has helped her on and off the course. 

“I’ve learned all of the things you should do like how to respect others. And it’s really fun.” 

The First Tee National Program is utilized in over one hundred schools right here in the Upstate, including every elementary school in Cherokee County. Overall, 60,000 local students participate each year.

“We’re one of the largest programs in the country per capita and we’re just so glad to be introducing the game to kids K through fifth grade,” said First Tee-Upstate Executive Director Michael Pius.

“I don’t think we’re limited to be in a building,” Clary added. “I think it kind of helps narrow us down and keep us a little more focused rather than the wide open outdoors.”

The First Tee-Upstate presented a championship trophy to the school for winning its recent team challenge event after they displayed the most knowledge about the lessons. It’s an accomplishment that Pius credits to their teacher. 

“We’re just blessed to have [Clary] as a mentor and being able to teach not only the golf skills but also the life skills.” 

For Clary, watching the kids get better with each class and sometimes even expressing a long-term interest in the sport is the gift that keeps on giving. 

“You can see improvement in a lot of kids and they peak an interest…“I have a lot of kids [say] ‘Miss Clary I play golf now.’ And that just makes me feel good.”

And with each new class, comes yet another opportunity to make a lifelong impact.

For more information on the program and the First Tee-Upstate, click here.