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First Tee Honors Joe Louis Barrow with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award

First Tee celebrated its 25th anniversary this past week with a Network Summit in Dallas that was capped off with a big honor for retired CEO Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan and former Commissioner Tim Finchem presented the award to Barrow, who led the nonprofit organization from 2000 to 2017.

Barrow combined passion, enthusiasm, and empathy as he led the organization through a time of incredible growth. Under his leadership, First Tee expanded its network of Chapters, which now stands at 150.

The First Tee also launched its School and Community Programs, which serve millions of kids who may not have access to a golf course.

“While at First Tee, Joe was appropriately called the “Chief Evangelist” because he was always sharing a great story about the impact First Tee had on a particular young person,” said Monahan, who also serves as Chair for the First Tee Board of Governors. “Joe led with many strengths, but perhaps his greatest was ensuring that the kids remained at the heart of every decision.”

First Tee Honors Joe Louis Barrow

Barrow was CEO when the organization launched its first national participant event, the Life Skills, and Leadership Academy. In 2021 the event was renamed the Game Changers Academy Honoring Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. and evolved to address challenges teens face in their daily lives including social justice issues and diversity, equity, and inclusion – topics near to Barrow’s heart.

Barrow took on his role as CEO while First Tee was in its infancy. The nonprofit – which teaches life skills through the game of golf – was first announced by Finchem and other leaders from the golf industry at a Central Park press conference on Nov. 13, 1997. A quarter century later, the organization has served millions of kids.

“I am truly humbled by this recognition,” said Barrow. “And I am deeply proud of the positive impact First Tee has had over the years. It wouldn’t have been possible without my dedicated colleagues, the coaches and Chapter staff, and supporters who believed in our mission.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award was one of several awards the organization presented in Dallas during the organization’s Network Summit held Nov. 16-18. The Summit brought together representatives from First Tee’s network of 150 chapters to celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary and continue building momentum for the future with robust workshops, training, and peer-to-peer networking. Appearances were made by President George W. Bush, honorary chair of First Tee, PGA TOUR player Will Zalatoris, artist and criminal justice reform activist Valentino Dixon and other inspirational speakers. The Summit was presented by Century Golf Partners, supported by 3M, and made possible by other corporate partners who stand behind First Tee’s mission. The Dallas event also featured an Alumni Summit presented by Gallagher and an Innovators Forum for participants.

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