Eagle County’s 1st Tee founder is retiring
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – A good life flies like a good golf shot, long and true.
Dave Kolquist hits both, and more importantly helps others hit them, too.
Kolquist launched Eagle County’s 1st Tee program. He’s retiring, but he’s a teacher to his very soul and he stuck around to bring along his successor, local golf pro Drew Formier.
“Because he was in education he really connected the educational components and golf instruction to learning for life,” said Susie Davis with The Youth Foundation, 1st Tee’s local parent organization.
Kolquist spent five years in Vail, getting the 1st Tee program up and running.
Before that, he did the same thing in Denver for five years.
Before that, he was a science teacher for 30 years.
They taught a little golf and a lot of life to 3,500 kids over those five years in Eagle County. In Denver they’re up to 6,000 kids and going strong in a year-round program.
“The greatest reward is seeing these kids five years after they’ve left the program,” Kolquist said.
Kolquist uses golf to teach life skills to kids, and expanded the program to include other activities that teach the same sorts of things: integrity, health, fitness, stuff you want your kids to know.
“As a teacher, I have never met anyone with a more pure motivation to develop quality kids,” said Jason Fields with Inyodo Martial Arts. Kolquist brought Fields in to handle 1st Tee’s martial arts instruction.
“He’s not there to babysit your kids,” Fields said.
It’s all part of the teaching process, and the best way to learn something is to teach it. When kids have been part of the program for a year or two, they help the new kids.
“Everything builds in a progression, and the students who’ve been there for a year or two find themselves helping the younger kids,” Fields said.
Kolquist devised a curriculum around building golf clubs. He took his chop saw over to a local school, put an aluminum shaft in it, fired it up and made some sparks fly. Noise and sparks – the stuff of lifelong learning, and kids can’t wait to get their hands on it.
Kids weigh and measure both the clubs and themselves, so there’s some anatomy and math. They get to use power tools to cut the club shafts, so you can throw some industrial arts into the mix. They chart ball trajectory when the golf club struck the ball, and there’s your geometry lesson.
They have to articulate everything correctly and completely.
When they’re done, they have a set of custom-fitted golf clubs and they’ve learned a bunch of really great stuff.
“When they’re building golf clubs, each part of the club is applied to some lesson, and the club itself becomes a metaphor for a part of life,” Fields said. “Then the golf swing is applied to life.”
While he was teaching he got to know some people who knew some people. Tom Woodard was golf director for the city of Denver, who let it be known that he needed a youth golf director.
Kolquist got it. Denver’s was Colorado’s original 1st Tee program, and Kolquist soon had it running year round.
When he took over Denver’s youth golf program, he asked Woodard for a little direction. Woodard said he wanted more kids of color in the program, and that kids didn’t play at the city park course.
So, Kolquist went back to school.
A school a couple blocks away in Denver had abysmal CSAP scores. He started the Read and Swing program that sent golf professionals into that school to meet with kids, help them learn to read, and maybe teach them a little about golf and life. Some read golf books, some did not. But they were all reading and learning.
While Kolquist was building Denver’s First Tee program, he spoke at a national conference, where some of The Youth Foundation’s board of directors spotted him.
“Dave stood out as a star,” Davis said. “He started some innovative programs in Denver to connect people with kids and the educational components so important for their success.”
When the opportunity popped up to start 1st Tee in Eagle County he grabbed it. His wife was up here and he’s fond of being in her immediate vicinity.
During the winter he has some extra time, so he helps out around schools, volunteering in Gypsum Elementary School. It should be no surprise that Gypsum Elementary’s success has been recognized by the state and national departments of education.
“Enrollment went up, and that’s good. But the CSAP scores in science went up seven points, which is better,” Kolquist said.
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