TYLER, TX (KLTV) - For nearly 10 years, Christian Sarran has been teaching kids about character through the game of golf.
As program director for The First Tee of Greater Tyler he said he coaches, “the etiquette, the rules, how to compose yourself in addition to the fundamentals.”
Since 2012, The First Tee has been impacting students through shared youth spaces.
“We moved into the Boys and Girls club in 2012, but we were a little restricted being that it wasn’t our own place and we had to share the building and ask for permission to do certain things,” said Sarran.
One unexpected donation changed all that for the organization. “We were excited,” Sarran said when he found out The First Tee would be given a home building to operate in. “It was something that we had talked and dreamed about for several years and then to have the opportunity to have the plans and the funding come through, it just was an exciting dream for us that came to reality.”
Inside the new space, you’ll find state-of-the-art swing technology, work areas for First Tee participants, and close access to their home course, Oak Hurst Golf Course.
“Now the kids have a place that they can call home,” said Sarran. “It’s their building, it’s a place they can hang out and have fun with us.”
Over the past several years, The First Tee has seen a number of successes. Multiple high school students have qualified for national tournaments at Pebble Beach. One of their youngest players, Dylan Clanton, made his Golf Channel debut in 2017. Whitehouse High School graduate Walker LaRue is playing his first year of collegiate golf at Oklahoma Christian University. First Tee participants also racked up dozens of medals during the North Texas PGA summer tournament series.
For all those involved, the new facility has been a labor of love.
“It’s finally given us some solid roots as an organization to be here with a local golf course that embraced us and the kids really enjoy coming and playing at and being apart of,” said Angie Wood, Board Member and First Tee parent.
“It means a great deal,” said Willie Redford, Board Member and First Tee volunteer coach. “Everybody knows where we are and we’ll be here next week, next month, and hopefully for a long time.”
Sarran said the new building means the children of East Texas have a place where they can grow emotionally and physically.
“They’re family, this is their family, and a place where they can trust and feel safe, but also have a good time and grow with caring adults,” said Sarran.