A student from Sunnyside Elementary School in Bonita, Calif., gets an up-close look at the different components of soil during a First Green field trip at Bonita Golf Course in February 2016. Photo by David Phipps
The USGA has committed $20,000 in funding support to GCSAA and GCSAA’s philanthropic organization, the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG), for First Green, an outreach program that provides hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education on golf courses.
Prior to GCSAA assuming leadership of First Green in 2018, the USGA was a longtime supporter of the program, which has its origins in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1997, First Green is the only STEM education and environmental outreach program that uses golf courses as learning labs. Each First Green field trip averages 75 students who learn about topics such as soil, insects, plants, water conservation, wildlife habitat and golf. For most students, such “outdoor classrooms” represent their first exposure to a golf course.
“First Green is the first introduction to golf for many students, and so we are very fortunate to have the USGA as an ally in making it happen,” says Rhett Evans, GCSAA CEO. “This program is just one of many where the USGA’s dedication to the game shows through its support of GCSAA and the superintendents we serve.”
“It’s been exciting to support the continual growth of First Green and its efforts to get kids engaged in the exciting science of golf,” says Kimberly Erusha, Ph.D., managing director of the USGA Green Section. “This program is another part of GCSAA’s overall efforts to promote golf course superintendents, and it’s a great way for the USGA to continue our commitment to environmental stewardship in golf.”
In addition, the USGA financially supports GCSAA’s Best Management Practices initiative, which has a goal of establishing golf course environmental best management practices in all 50 states by 2020. The USGA committed $800,000 to help support an online resource that simplifies and expedites the creation of golf course BMP programs at the state level.
The USGA also provided funding for the second phase of GCSAA’s Golf Course Environmental Profile, a groundbreaking project launched in 2006 that compiles data on the land use, inputs, management of natural resources and environmental stewardship associated with golf courses in the United States.
The USGA is a member of the EIFG’s Platinum Tee Club, which denotes donors that contribute $5,000 or more annually, and the USGA has reached the Victory Club level — the highest level — in the EIFG’s Cumulative Giving Program, which recognizes donors that have given $1 million or more since 1987.