First Tee – Greater Richmond was born from a national initiative launched in 1997 by the World Golf Foundation. Those who first dreamed of making golf widely available to young people dreamed big and envisioned First Tee Programs throughout the United States. Through these programs, young people would learn a sport that could be played throughout their lives while benefiting from the positive values inherent to golf.
Local newspaper coverage of former President George Bush announcing the World Golf Foundation’s initiative caught the eye of Mrs. Roddy Tattersall. She knew that the concept would interest her husband, and she was right! A few months after introduction of the First Tee concept nationally, Fred Tattersall, a Richmond business and community leader and golfer, led the charge to establish a chapter in Richmond. The William Goodwin, Jr. and James and Robert Ukrop families joined the Tattersalls to become the lead founding benefactors of First Tee – Greater Richmond. Before long the number of supporters grew to over 200 people. The project received significant financial support from First Union Bank (now Wells Fargo Bank), Target Stores, Chesterfield County, and the City of Richmond. On February 26, 1998 the founders incorporated “Richmond First Tee” as a non-profit organization, and laid the groundwork for the development of First Tee facilities in the greater Richmond area.
The efforts of those committed to seeing youth benefit from affordable and accessible golf facilities paid off. In August of 2000, First Tee – Greater Richmond opened its golf course in Chesterfield County, the Tattersall Youth Development Center, becoming the nation’s twentieth programming location.
Three years later, First Tee – Greater Richmond opened the 100th programming location in the country with its golf course on the north side of the City of Richmond, the Elson Redmond Memorial Driving Range. Being able to locate a course in the heart of Richmond was a leap forward for the project; it meant that First Tee could more easily reach inner-city children who often have difficulty accessing programs located in the suburbs. Lester George, renowned golf course architect, gave his time to design the course in Chesterfield and the course in the City of Richmond as a gift to the chapter. In 2010, First Tee – Greater Richmond formed a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University Athletics to make the Elson Redmond Memorial Driving Range the home of VCU Men’s Golf.
The third piece of First Tee – Greater Richmond’s portfolio came into being on Jan. 1, 2020, when the organization assumed operational control of Belmont Golf Course from Henrico County as part of a 20-year lease awarded to First Tee – Greater Richmond. Through 2020, First Tee – Greater Richmond worked with Love Golf Design to renovate and reimagine the historic property that was laid out by A.W. Tillinghast in 1917.
On May 24, 2021, the greater Henrico County and Richmond communities celebrated the reopening of Belmont, which now consists of a restored 12-hole course (Belmont), 6-hole par-3 course (Little Bell) and 18-hole putting course (The Ringer).
Program expansion continued for First Tee – Greater Richmond when it adopted First Tee’s National School Program, a national initiative that introduces the game of golf and First Tee’s Life Skills Curriculum to elementary students during physical education classes. In 2010, the National School Program entered into 10 Chesterfield County Schools. One year later, 10 Richmond City Schools began delivering the program. First Tee – Greater Richmond now serves 41 local elementary schools with the hopes of expanding into all elementary schools in the Greater Richmond area by the end of 2017. Outside of delivering programs onsite and in elementary schools, First Tee – Greater Richmond has many collaborate community partners, such as The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Richmond and Communities in Schools.
First Tee – Greater Richmond garners community respect by offering something unique to area youth. Without First Tee – Greater Richmond, the majority of children who participate in the program wouldn’t have exposure to the game of golf and the life skills encompassing the sport. Engaging the community in our mission will strengthen the organization today to ensure that First Tee – Greater Richmond continues to be instrumental in touching the lives of thousands of children by providing a solid base for their development to become successful members of our community. Through both the Chesterfield and Richmond facilities and programs, we will continue to work to instill positive values, confidence and self-esteem in our region’s children.