AP NEWS

Tony Allman is able to go home again with The First Tee of Aiken

April 15, 2019

Tony Allman has found a slice of Holiday Country Club at The First Tee of Aiken.

Holiday, a nine-hole track in Canton Ohio, was the stay-at-home summer vacation for Allman and his family when he was growing up. The clubhouse was a refurbished barn and the course itself was little more than a cow pasture, but they loved it.

It’s also where he learned the very principles he talks about on a daily basis now as The First Tee of Aiken’s board chair.

“My mother was a First Tee before there was a First Tee. She started an organization at a little golf course where I learned how to play golf,” he said. “She started a junior golf organization, and she taught all the same things that we do. So it was like, you know, going home for me.”

Now he sees Aiken’s youth learning those same lessons from executive director Lexie Milford, programming director Heidi Hoffman and a devoted legion of volunteers.

Allman’s involvement with The First Tee of Aiken started simply – with a tap on the shoulder and a suggestion.

But it made perfect sense.

He was familiar with the organization and believed in what it stood for – that it’s all about the kids and their future in addition to the community. He said The First Tee of Aiken takes pride in being a proactive organization, making the area’s youth better citizens for the future to lighten the burden on other organizations that function in reaction to problems in the community.

The week of the Masters Tournament is jam-packed for The First Tee of Aiken, but then again so is every week when they’re gearing up for the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley. The First Tee of Aiken is heavily involved in junior golf’s biggest tournament, most visibly as the standard bearers carrying the signs with players’ names and scores during the 54-hole event.

Of course, there’s still some fun to be had this week. Some First Tee of Aiken participants get to spend a day at the Masters among a global audience and the world’s best golfers.

“It has multiple facets. No. 1 is it’s just nice that they get that opportunity when they wouldn’t otherwise,” Allman said. “It’s also good for the chapter in that it motivates the kids to stay involved and to come back next year, so that they know that they have a chance (at going).”

The big project currently for the First Tee of Aiken – as if they’re not already taking on enough – is the fundraising for the More Than a Game Campaign. The First Tee of Aiken is planning to move into a new home it will share with the USC Aiken golf team after spending the last decade at Houndslake Country Club.

The key takeaway for Allman is that the new facility will be a safe home for The First Tee of Aiken’s participants, and it ensures the program’s longevity by having a secure, long-term home base. The location is key, too – they want to target the growth area in Aiken County between North Augusta and Graniteville, and they also want to expand to reach and impact kids in the northeast part of Aiken.

Allman and company are continuously pursuing the funds for the new facility, which will be located near the Convocation Center, and the best way to support the cause is by donating. More information on the project, and a link to donate, can be found at https://www.thefirstteeaiken.org/more-than-a-game/.

An association with USCA golf speaks for itself, and the Pacers’ team members can serve as role models to The First Tee of Aiken’s participants. The kids will also have built-in tutors on campus.

The First Tee of Aiken will be front and center at SRP Park on May 22 for the Augusta GreenJackets’ We Care Wednesday. They’ll have the opportunity to share their mission and programs with the CSRA and spread the message Allman likes to deliver whenever he gets the chance.

“There are children that we’ve impacted that are going to college that would’ve never gone to college. There are children that are playing on golf teams in college that would’ve never gone to college,” he said. “All the rest of the, even if they only go for a year, they’re being positively impacted – and we’re making it a better community. I love Aiken, and what we do makes a difference and it will make a bigger difference once we’re the new facility and can impact even more kids.”