The U.S. Open will attract the attention of the golf world to the Philadelphia area, and that provides the First Tee of Greater Philadelphia with an excellent opportunity to show people the fine work it does for youths through the sport.
The local chapter is going all-out by having former President George W. Bush as its special guest at a fund-raising gala June 15 - the Saturday of U.S. Open weekend - at the ACE Club Conference Center in Lafayette Hill.
John MacDonald, executive director of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia, said former President George H.W. Bush has been an active participant in the national program as honorary chair. The younger Bush succeeded his father in that role in February.
"It's pretty exciting," MacDonald said. "He actually has participated with First Tee annual meetings that we have for all chapters around the country. He's been there the last couple of times. His dad, it's a shame that his health has been failing. He always did a film presentation for all the chapter directors and staff.
"We've been interacting with the Bush family for all 10 years we've been a part of it. It's certainly great to have his family represented in Philadelphia. It would never happen without the Open."
Bush will be joined on the dais by Joe Louis Barrow, chief executive officer of The First Tee, and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.
"So you have three heavy hitters, all on the same program and all for the same purpose, to let people know about and grow The First Tee," MacDonald said. "The cool part about it for us is it's the first time that the president has been involved in Philadelphia for the purpose of The First Tee."
MacDonald said he hoped for a full house of 500 people at the gala, which would generate funding on a short-term basis and possibly influence contributors to help long-term.
TFT's Greater Philadelphia chapter covers five Pennsylvania counties and three in New Jersey. Approximately 8,700 youths are in its programs, MacDonald said, with 4,600 of them in certification.
The certification process involves five levels of training in education and life skills to fulfill the program's mission, which is "to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, and promote healthy choices through the game of golf."
MacDonald said his chapter has been recognized by the national office as having achieved the highest level of performance for seven consecutive years.
"It doesn't mean we're the No. 1 chapter," he said. "It means that anybody that's going to consider a major contribution knows that this chapter knows how to get positive results at the highest level of performance that the organization lays out. To be held up to that example is kind of cool."
The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia has other activities scheduled for Open week. The program will operate a concession tent all week on the 14th hole; participate in a clinic June 10 as part of the Golf Channel show The Golf Fix; join in a U.S. Golf Association display on Independence Mall; and host TFT's annual Achievers Awards dinner June 12 at the National Constitution Center.
Information on the gala and volunteering for work at the concession tent can be obtained at www.thefirstteephiladelphia.org.