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First Tee of South Puget Sound

Military kids learn valuable lessons in life at annual golf camp

Northwest Guardian

Published: 01:56PM May 3rd, 2018

Northwest Guardian

Instructor Steve O’Brien, left, gives chipping pointers to Gabriel Simpson, 6, during a First Tee golf camp at Eagles Pride Golf Course on Lewis Main Tuesday.

Tuesday marked five years since the passing of Staff Sgt. Michael Simpson of 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), and Joint Base Lewis-McChord remembers. His widow, Krista Simpson Anderson, has since found an outlet for their two sons — Michael, 8, and Gabriel, 6 — through the game of golf.

After speaking at an event for Folds of Honor, Anderson met officials from the First Tee program who heard about her sons’ interest in the sport. Both boys are now sponsored for the program for life.

Michael and Gabriel are enrolled at the current First Tee camp at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Eagles Pride Golf Course, which meets every Tuesday. Anderson said she’s happy they’re learning from a program that teaches golf and life skills.

“(It’s great) to be able to have (an activity) that’s constant,” the Gold Star spouse said. “It’s also amazing to have a program that instills the values you do.”

First Tee is a youth developmental organization that introduces kids to nine core values: sportsmanship, responsibility, perseverance, confidence, judgment, courtesy, honesty, integrity and respect.

Based out of St. Augustine, Fla., First Tee has several chapters based across the United States, including a few in Washington state. The First Tee of South Puget Sound partners with organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, YMCA and JBLM’s Child and Youth Services.

A weekly camp for kids on Tuesdays started April 24 at Eagles Pride Golf Course on Lewis Main for ages 8 to 17, along with a version for ages 5 to 6.

A weekly camp for kids on Thursdays started Thursday at Whispering Firs Golf Course on McChord Field for ages 8 to 17.

Anderson said she’s noticed her kids are more attentive on the golf course.

“They’re making it fun, and it’s great to be able to teach someone and make them want to do it,” she said.

Steve O’Brien is on First Tee’s board of directors and said he’s enjoyed teaching as a volunteer the last three years after acting as a rules official for the Washington Junior Golf Association.

In his first time leading instruction on a JBLM golf course, O’Brien said he noticed a difference in the military youth class compared to the classes taught at civilian golf courses.

“There’s a lot of kids who don’t have one of their parents or guardians (with them due to training and deployments),” O’Brien said.

Marsha Barrow-Smith, an Army spouse, also noticed a difference in her children — Mia, 8, and Ellis, 6. Both are in their second year in the program and have shown increasing interest in the sport.

Like Anderson, Barrow-Smith said she’s more happy to see the skills they can take away from the links.

“It’s a lifestyle social skill they can add to their repertoire,” Barrow-Smith said.

Dean Siemon: 253-477-0235