An enlightening First Green experience at GIS 2020

Superintendents got how-to for hosting an illuminating First Green field trip at their home course, then got to see one in practice.


First Green Golf Industry Show
Steve Kealy, CGCS, (left) delivers a math lesson to students from Florida Virtual School during a First Green field trip on Monday at Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Orlando in Bay Lake, Fla. The outing doubled as a tutorial on hosting a First Green field trip for attendees of the Golf Industry Show. Photos by Andrew Hartsock

Melissa Martin teaches mathematics for a living.

She does not play golf, nor had she spent so much as a hot second on a golf course before Monday.

So Martin, a seventh grade math teacher for Florida Virtual School, expected to learn a lot about golf when she took part in a First Green field trip Monday to Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Resort Orlando in Bay Lake, Fla. To her surprise, she even learned a little something about math.

“It was great for them (the kids), and I even learned something,” Martin said. “I learned a new way to measure area. I had never heard of that method before. I thought that was great.”

As part of a the learning tour “Launching a First Green Field Trip Program at Your Own Golf Course,” nearly 50 golf course superintendents — from all corners of the country, plus Canada and even a couple of countries outside the Americas — spent about 45 minutes inside the Orange County Convention Center on Monday learning the basics about First Green, GCSAA’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education outreach program that strives to introduce youngsters to golf courses.

They then headed to Tranquilo Golf Course, where they rotated through the four stations at which the Florida Virtual School students — representing grades three through 10 — played with various STEM concepts focused through a golf lens.

Case in point: At the math station, Martin picked up her tidbit about approximating the area of an irregular shape thanks to the “offset” method taught by First Green instructor Steve Kealy, CGCS, of Glendale Country Club in Bellevue, Wash. Kealy, a 33-year GCSAA member, has been active with First Green since 1998.

First Green started in 1997 and came under GCSAA’s umbrella in 2018.

Martin came away with more than just another formula.

“As a math teacher, every day we get asked, ‘When are we ever going to use this?’ This is just one answer,” she said. “And I also learned about all the different jobs around a golf course. There’s the kitchen staff and the superintendent and mechanic. There are so many opportunities.

“At our school, sometimes the students can be a bit ... reserved. They can be a bit shy. But they were all coming off, going to the next station saying, ‘Wow, that’s so cool.’”

Two of those students were siblings Mykenzi and Alexzander Pavlovic.

The younger of the two, sixth grader Alexzander proudly shared that he already gets paid to cut the grass at home. His favorite station, though, wasn’t the one where he and his classmates got to see golf course mowing equipment up close before trying their hands on the putting green.

Alexzander preferred the day’s final station, where students used a sand sieve to learn about soil makeup.

“My brain is just really, really, really ... surprised,” he said. “I didn’t know sand could be that small.”

Mykenzi’s takeaway perhaps sums up the purpose of the entire learning trip — and First Green itself — best.

“I’m just surprised,” the eighth grader said, “that there’s so much math and science behind golf. I thought it was all just, you know, clubs and balls.”

More snapshots from the First Green excursion at Tranquilo Golf Course:

First Green station

GCSAA First Green

Tranquilo Golf Course

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.