Sometime in the next year, Willow Park will be home to a Ben Hogan Learning Center at Squaw Creek Golf Course — the second facility worldwide.
The First Tee organization, in partnership with the Ben Hogan Foundation, built the first Ben Hogan Learning Center at Rockwood Golf Course in Fort Worth. The mission is to help youth build life skills — honesty, respect, perseverance, integrity, confidence, courtesy, sportsmanship, responsibility and judgement — while also learning the game of golf.
“We’re a youth development character education program that just uses golf as our vehicle to teach those principles and core values. We are one of about 200 chapters around the country and world — we’re all our own individual entities, but all under The First Tee umbrella,” The First Tee Fort Worth Executive Director Kevin Long said. “Here in the Fort Worth area we serve four-plus counties, obviously including Parker County, and about 60,000 kids, and that includes all of our programs combined.”
Squaw Creek Golf Course Director of Golf Lynn Vaughan said he began having discussions with Long in 2015 about bringing a program to Willow Park.
“I went over to The First Tee headquarters in Fort Worth and spoke with Kevin and at that time Kevin and I really didn’t know each other and he didn’t know that much about our facility. I talked him into driving out here — at that time we were doing the first phase of the remodel, which was our practice facility — and when he came out and saw what we had done with our practice facility, his jaw dropped,” Vaughan said. “He could see it was a perfect setting for the kids being out here, so he was all in at that point.”
While learning the nine core values, youth can spend time golfing or resting and hanging out with friends, which is a strategy in line with one of the main goals of The First Tee — to provide access to the game of golf across all socio-economic boundaries within communities.
“We are just so very proud to be associated with The First Tee and the Ben Hogan Foundation and what this means for the kids in this community. That’s the main thing for us — a great organization to be associated with,” Vaughan said. “The thing I like about it is this is not something that’s taking kids and trying to turn them into great golfers, if that happens that’s good, but they’re trying to turn them into great young men and women, and that’s much more important.”
Willow Park Mayor Doyle Moss said he’s excited to see what the new center will do for the city and the golf course.
“Lynn Vaughan welcomes kids to the golf course and I’m thrilled that this is coming to Willow Park. I’m very excited about what it will do for the city, Parker County and Squaw Creek. Those nine core values that The First Tee promotes is teaching kids good life skills and we want to help promote that, and be good partners with them,” Moss said. “I’ve been very impressed with the organization and the people that are involved in this, it’s just been a great relationship that we’ve started and hope to continue for many years to come.”
Vaughan said the center will give Willow Park and the surrounding area worldwide acclaim.
“This is tremendously beneficial not just for the golf course, but for Willow Park, for Parker County and for West Fort Worth. Once the Ben Hogan Learning Center is built, it gives this area worldwide acclaim — there’s only one of these in the world and we’re getting No. 2,” Vaughan said. “It’s going to bring a tremendous amount of traffic to the golf course and the businesses of Willow Park and Parker County.”
A groundbreaking ceremony was scheduled to take place Friday, but with the COVID-19 outbreak, has been postponed for now.
“We were suppose to have a groundbreaking Friday, but that’s a TBD right now. We will start construction pretty soon and we’ll have a date when we do that, and maybe do a virtual groundbreaking ceremony if we’re still under restrictions,” Long said. “Assuming that we start sometime this spring, it’s about an eight to nine month project and so we would be open sometime in early 2021 — hopefully a year from now.”