Many people dedicate their retirement to playing golf. David Ross is dedicating his to bringing the game to children in underserved communities.
Ross launched the Education First Golf Program this year in Wilmington, Del., and there are already 123 kids enrolled, ranging in age from 8 to 17.
He modeled the program after The First Tee, an organization founded in 1997 with the support of the USGA, LPGA, Masters Tournament, PGA of America and PGA Tour as a way of introducing golf to youngsters in economically disadvantaged areas. Over the past 22 years, the USGA has provided more than $26 million in grants to the organization.
Four out of five currently enrolled teens and alumni say The First Tee has helped them become better students.
“If I can do half that, do you know how many lives we can change?” Ross said.
He believes he can achieve that goal by teaching the values of golf, such as honesty and integrity. The game also helps young people learn how to communicate and work with others, skills that will prepare them for college.
“If you can persevere and learn to play golf, that in itself will enrich anyone’s journey,” Ross said.
Education First is holding two career days this summer to show kids that the game provides opportunities beyond just playing it. On hand will be superintendents, sales representatives and more.
The USGA recently donated 125 Rules books, approximately 1,000 golf balls and many golf history brochures to the program.
“The Rules books are huge,” Ross said. “That’s an expense we would have had to incur. What the USGA has done for us is immeasurable at this point.”
Education First is currently being funded by state and local grants, but Ross has a larger goal of raising $500,000 to build a facility complete with simulators and computers.
“My idea is to have the older kids mentor the younger kids,” he said.
Ross, who is originally from Georgia, learned the game from an uncle who caddied at Augusta National. After moving to Washington, D.C., at age 7, Ross started playing at historic Langston Golf Course. When he played in his first tournament, Ross used a putter given to him by 2019 USGA Bob Jones Award recipient Lee Elder, who managed Langston for three years after his trailblazing PGA Tour career.
Ross went on to work in the roofing business before retiring and moving to Delaware. He believes it is now his time to give back.
“It’s what I’m supposed to do,” Ross said. “Every morning you wake up, it’s exciting because of the kids and all the people who want to be a part of this.”
Jordan Schwartz is the senior manager of social media for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.