The First Tee of Aiken has raised $1.41 million toward its goal of building a new nine-hole practice facility on the campus of USC Aiken.

Tony Allman, the board chairman of First Tee, discussed the project Thursday at the Kiwanis Club of Aiken's weekly meeting at Cumberland Village. First Tee is an international youth development organization that introduces golf and the game's values to children and teens, he said.

“To talk about the First Tee of Aiken without mentioning this project would be incomplete because we really need – and must have – this facility built so we can reach more children that we know we're not reaching,” Allman said.

The location will put the facility closer to Aiken County's center of population between downtown Aiken and North Augusta, Allman said. The program currently is at Houndslake Country Club.

“All the growth is in the west out of downtown Aiken, and we want to be part of that,” Allman said. “We want the children growing up in the other parts of town. The northwest part of town, northeast part of town, east part of town – we are not getting those children in our program, and we want them in our program.”

USCA, through the Aiken County Commission on Higher Education, provided 60 acres west of the Convocation Center for the facility. The site will ensure greater safety and security for the children and teens who participate, Allman said.

“This gives us a great opportunity to be able to keep our eye on the children at all times,” Allman said. “Wherever they are on the facility, we'll be able to see them.”

The facility will be built in phases. Phase 1 will include practice areas, equipment, lighting and a temporary building. Phase 2 will include nine golf holes and a permanent building. The total cost of the More than a Game project is $3.3 million.

“A stable, long-term home that we can afford is a huge thing for us, and we're committed to making that happen,” Allman said.

Allman said the facility would include practice areas for the USCA men's golf team and could allow the university to start a women's golf team, adding that USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan is “enthusiastic” about the possibility of adding a women's team.

“That's a big plus for the university and the community as well to have a women's golf team,” Allman said.

During his presentation, Allman said The First Tee uses after-school and in-school programs to help shape the lives of young people from all walks of life. The program reinforces values such as integrity, respect and perseverance through the game of golf.

In 2018, The First Tee of Aiken impacted more than 18,500 children and teens.

“We are making a difference one young person at a time,” Allman said.

Locally funded and operated, The First Tee of Aiken is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization established in 2009. Programming began in 2010.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.