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November 13, 2009

John Cook

Clayton Morris


MARK STEVENS: Okay. Thank you for coming this afternoon. We've got some special guests here with an announcement. We've got Clayton Morris in the blue jacket. He's with Golfweek, and he's the president of the board of directors for The First Tee chapter in Central Florida.
We have Champions Tour player John Cook to his left, who just actually won the final event on the Champions Tour. Congratulations.
And then we have Jimmy Weck, he's with First Tee of St. Petersburg; and then Jordan Shea, who is from The First Tee of St. John's County.
Mr. Clayton Morris, if you'd start off and make the announcements and then we'll take some questions.
CLAYTON MORRIS: Okay. First of all, I want to thank you all for coming. Like he explained I'm Clayton Morris of Golfweek Magazine and also the president of First Tee of Central Florida, which is a chapter under development.
Earlier this year a group of business folks in the area started looking at backing golf as a charitable organization, and a little bit to our surprise found out that there wasn't already a First Tee chapter already established in the Orlando area. And so we very quickly got in touch with some of the folks of First Tee International and started that going.
A little bit later we were fortunate enough to obtain a letter of intent from The First Tee International, and since then we've really been trying to do different things like develop a programming, go through the whole chapter applications process.
Right now our plan is to serve Orange, Lake, Seminole and Osceola County, serve the kids in that area, and we're really excited about that. All the folks that we've talked to in the area, and obviously the folks at First Tee International have been really encouraging us, very strong supporters. Have many, many people in the area who have offered to volunteer, offered to help in different ways, and we're really very encouraged that the chapter will be embraced by the community.
I just wanted to take a real quick moment to say thank you to our other board members. Besides myself we have Matt Certo, President of Websolvers, Inc.; Ken Cooper with Disney; Armand Cimaroli, who I work with at Golfweek; Brandon Johnson with Arnold Palmer Design Company; Sally Livingston; Mike Crosbie, Jon Johnston, and Larry Meador who's in advertising.
At the end of the day what we really need, where we are right now, we need to accomplish two things. We need to get all of our things that we need to get our official chapter status, and we need funds. We really need a jump start to get this thing going and be able to hire an executive director, and we're really hopeful in that by starting the word here today to get some folks in the community interested.
MARK STEVENS: Okay. Also, John, if you'd make a few comments. You've been involved in building three other First Tee chapters. If you'll talk a little bit about that, where they are, and just the work that goes into that. And how it benefits children in those communities.
JOHN COOK: Normally when I sit up here I'm going over a scorecard and talking to guys and they're throwing questions at me, but we're really happy to be involved in this and to help with the announcement and the ground breaking and all, but my family's been involved in the First Tee program for a while.
We opened one in middle, early 90s at a golf course in Columbus, so The First Tee of Central Ohio we were involved in. We're also involved in the First Tee up in Western Pennsylvania, in Sharon, Pennsylvania. My aunt is the director there. And then my sister and her husband, Greg Russell are involved in the one in Philadelphia and also the one in Columbus. And I think between the three they run 750 to 1,000 kids through those programs. And we're thrilled to be part of that.
I grew up in junior golf. I was a country club kid. I was very lucky, but our junior program in Southern California was incredible, and it was, you know, just life lessons learned along the way.
And now, with The First Tee organization throughout the country and all the chapters, it's just -- it's such an important program for not only the communities, but for the kids, learning things that they just wouldn't in school.
There's so many other life lessons to be learned through junior golf and through the chapters and just working with adults and just understanding what is going on, and after school, and learning about a great game.
We were talking earlier, you don't have to be a professional golfer to enjoy the game. There's so much -- so many other facets to this great sport to be involved in.
And you know, my family, the Cook family has been involved for now 15 years in the First Tee organization, and we're thrilled. And we're happy to be here to announce The First Tee chapter of Central Florida. It's a great opportunity, and like I said, another great opportunity for the kids to expose them to such a great game, and just keep learning.
THE MODERATOR: And at this time if there's any questions, you're able to ask.

Q. I was wondering if you could back up a little bit and give an overview of exactly what First Tee is and how it evolved. To the layman or to the newly initiated, what is First Tee?
CLAYTON MORRIS: Well, First Tee is first and foremost a youth development program, a character development program. It uses golf as a platform so that there's instruction certainly in playing golf, but all the life lessons that golf can provide, like John was talking about.
First Tee is really built around nine core values. I won't go through them now, but all the kinds of things that you might want your own children to learn, The First Tee is designed to reinforce for kids who may not be getting as much of that or may be getting it, it just reinforces it.
A lot of things kids don't get in school and they don't necessarily get from being in public.

Q. How many total chapters are there?
JOHN COOK: There's 200. It's a program that started, the TOUR got involved and a lot of the other golf organizations got involved and they opened up 200 chapters, and that's exposing the game to a lot of kids, country club kids to inner city kids. The whole spectrum is covered in that.
You know, one of our Champions Tour, probably our most important event of the year is the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach where we're paired with a junior golfer that has gone through the program, not necessarily the best junior players in the country, but very, very good. And I think it's our most important event that we have on the Champions Tour just because it interacts the kids with business leaders, with other professional golfers that their parents might have grown up playing against or watching play, and just to see the kids interact and how they've gone through their programs to see, you know, how those kids -- what kind of people they have become, to outstanding phenomenal young adults. So I say it's by far the most important event.

Q. You said it was a little bit to your surprise that Central Florida didn't have -- it was probably a lot to your surprise. Can you really believe that Central Florida didn't have a First Tee, and why do you think that was?
CLAYTON MORRIS: You know, honestly I don't know all the reasons. Obviously Orlando makes a great visiting location, the size of the community, the number of young people that are here, the golf for professional golfers, the number of events that come through here and all those things really conspire to make it a great place to have a First Tee chapter.
In many ways The First Tee got very good at laying a great foundation for communities to follow, groups to follow that want to develop a chapter. And so they have some rules that you have to follow, which can be challenging to make sure that you do it in the right way, but if you follow that and do it the right way, you can feel confident that you're going to have a good successful chapter that can fund itself and reach lots of kids and really accomplish the mission.

Q. This is for either of you or anybody. Do you find -- does the sport of golf lend itself to this endeavor in the sense of etiquette or the fact that it's an honor system? Does this lend itself to this program better than any other sport could?
JOHN COOK: Well, I definitely think so. I think that, like I said, you don't have to become a professional golfer to get a lot of benefit out of this, as other sports as well. There's many, many entry-level kids' age groups in all the other sports, but I think golf you can play for so long. And we can all play together. You know, if you're, you know, all levels can play together and still learn.
So I think that, you know, golf is such a great platform to expose the young kids and just keep teaching. Like I said, there's a lot of things you don't learn in school, and you can learn a lot more and benefit from programs like this in the game of golf. It's just the way it's always been. It doesn't change, the values don't change in the game. You know, they're all the same.
When I grew up, my father would take me out to play with his friends on Saturday. That's what my Saturday was. I had to interact with adults when I was 14, 15 years old. Could have been doing other things on a Saturday in Southern California, but you know, but that's what we did, and that's what the game brought to me, and I learned from that.
And now, these programs here will teach those kids the same values that I was taught when I was young, and I think it's by far because of the history of golf and the etiquette of golf, that hasn't changed, and it's useful in all aspects of life.
MARK STEVENS: Any last questions? Okay. Thank you very much to all of you, and best of luck in this very important endeavor.

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