“The kid is so much more important than the golf swing.”
-Charles Hudson, Founder MSJGA
Founded in 1991 by Charles Hudson, The Mid-South Junior Golf Association (MSJGA) started as a grassroots inner city youth program for juniors ages 5-18. Originally based at the Pine Hill Golf Course in Memphis, where founder Hudson was the golf pro, the program attracted youths, their parents and the community and taught children not normally exposed to the game of golf. More importantly, golf would be used as an educational tool to provide the young people time with parents and role models that would teach them the importance of hard work, patience, character, etiquette, discipline, community involvement and self-esteem. The good work of the fledgling organization caught the eye of PGA Tour player Loren Roberts.
Impressed by the purpose and successes of the organization, Roberts became involved. In 1994 he donated $12,500 from his Presidents Cup participation to the program. By 1997 he had pledged $40,000 for a scholarship fund. Today, with an endowment of over $100,000, the Loren Roberts Scholarship Fund provides academic and/or trade school scholarships to high school seniors enrolled in the The First Tee of Memphis program. MSJGA went about its mission to increase participation and reach children beyond the confines of the South Memphis golf course.
Kids would go on out-of-town tournament trips, have pros come and teach clinics and receive scholarships to The Golf House in Franklin, TN and the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Orlando, FL just to name a few things. At the same time the kids were a visible part of the community. They have taught golf basics to patients at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, collected food for Thanksgiving baskets for the needy, removed trash from neighborhood streets, have volunteered at the National Civil Rights Museum and sorted gifts for the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. MSJGA also caught the eye of Tiger Woods and his foundation. When Tiger started his inner-city golf exhibitions in 1997, MSJGA got one of only six coveted slots to host a clinic. It was a resounding success with over 2,000 youth in attendance. The little program that could then caught the eye of major donors and community volunteers and saw the program grow steadily.
The First Tee of Memphis has since gained significant support from the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and the USGA. Its graduates have received academic and athletic scholarships and have come back to help the local program and programs across the country. Its students and program have been featured in national golf magazines and sports pages. In 1998, MSJGA signed a letter of intent to become the Memphis First Tee chapter.
Memphis continues to be the program that others seek to emulate. In 2001, the Bridgestone Firestone Trust Fund partnered with the city and county and The First Tee of Memphis to announce an ambitious project on the old Firestone plant site located in the North Memphis community known as “New Chicago”. With a challenge gift of 3.5 million dollars, The First Tee of Memphis set out to build a world class life skills and leadership training facility comprised of a computer lab, club repair shop, classrooms, full swing machine, library, 9-hole golf course and a complete golf learning center. We are now looking to turn the page once again as we are now solely located at the Firestone Golf Complex in 2011. We are excited about all the opportunities this location has afforded us and we are ready to take on the challenges of finishing the project.