First Tee Program opens new clubhouse


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EDISON — It’s more than just the game of golf for children in The First Tee Program at the Plainfield Country Club.

Josh Marseille of Linden, who is one of the original members of the program,  now plays golf for Union County College in Cranford.

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“This is where I gained life skills. … It’s where it shaped me to achieve, learn and respect others,” he said.

Marseille was on hand as members of The First Tee Program, including Ed Brockner, executive director of The First Tee Program Metropolitan New York; Bill Castner, director of The First Tee of Plainfield; Ed English, president of the Plainfield Country Club; Mark and Len Wilf, trustees of The First Tee, whose donation made the project possible; and township officials came together to dedicate the Nine West First Tee Clubhouse at 1591 Woodland Ave., Edison, on May 18.

The clubhouse is named after Castner, a PGA master professional and long-time member of the PGA of America. He also serves as head professional of the Plainfield West Nine Golf Club and oversees The First Tee of Plainfield.

Brockner said there is excitement about how the new clubhouse will help better serve children in the community.

“This facility will allow us to double the number of youth we serve from roughly 600 annually to well over 1,000 with golf, character education and tutoring programs,” he said.

He also pointed out that Plainfield Country Club is one of their primary facility locations. The Plainfield West Nine Golf Club is adjacent to the Plainfield Country Club.

The First Tee of Metropolitan New York is a youth development organization impacting the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf, with a focus of serving minority and underprivileged youth, according to its website.

“We went through a tough winter, but through the generosity of the Wilf family, membership, and a good partnership with the township, we were able to make this a reality,” Brockner said. “It’s all about the kids.”

Edison Business Administrator Maureen Ruane and Melissa Perilstein, administrator of policy and strategic initiatives, were on hand at the dedication on behalf of Mayor Thomas Lankey.

“The mayor is an avid golfer and sports enthusiast,” Perilstein said. “We are happy to have helped play a small role in this wonderful facility.”

Mark Wilf said, on behalf of his family, it is a privilege to attend the dedication.

“My son Steve helped out with the program when he was in high school,” he said. “It taught him great values of hard work, sportsmanship, and to give back [to the community].”

Len Wilf said his family is from the Union County area. He said the program is a great opportunity for children to learn golf and have a place to come after school and receive great lessons on life.

Marseille said before The First Tee Program, his passion was soccer.

“My little brother was in the program and he got good at golf and I got jealous. … I joined because of that,” he said.

Other than a few trips to a golf driving range, Marseille said he did not have much experience with golf.

“The best thing about the program is the people I have met. … Two of my best friends are from the program,” he said.

The First Tee Program for children and teens began in 1997. The program’s core values include honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance and courtesy. The program reaches more than 5 million kids annually across 50 states with a national school program in more than 10,000 elementary schools, 150 chapters at more than 1,200 golf courses and The First Tee DRIVE at 1,300 youth centers.

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