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Meet and Greet: Promise Night Honoree Tim Finchem

TFIn anticipation of America’s Promise Alliance’s fifth annual Promise Night, we’re introducing you to each of the night’s honorees, who are all outstanding individuals helping young people across the country access their versions of the American dream.

In the hot seat today: Tim Finchem, the retired third commissioner of the PGA TOUR, whose contributions to the PGA TOUR, its tournaments and players, and the broader world of golf catalyzed a remarkable commitment to the positive development of children and youth. As part of his mission to help young people succeed, he worked with the United States Golf Association, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the Professional Golfers’ Association, the Masters Tournament, and other organizations to launch The First Tee in 1997. The First Tee has grown to become one of the largest and most successful youth development programs in the country, reaching more than 12.2 million young people.

From his advice for young people starting out in the sports world to his love of the game of golf and its positive impact, Tim reflects on his long career and shares what’s next.

1. As the commissioner of the PGA TOUR, you played a key role in strengthening the organization’s position as one of the most successful, well-respected sports organizations in the world. What was your favorite moment as commissioner?

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of memorable, highly rewarding moments as commissioner, including those related to The First Tee. For instance, there was the moment when President Bush 41 agreed to be the first Honorary Chair, which really helped generate lot of interest in The First Tee, and the day we announced The First Tee in Central Park. There also was the way that Joe Barrow, former chief executive officer of The First Tee, successfully merged such a solid program of learning and core values into the curriculum, representing what The First Tee is all about. There are many others … it truly has been a road lined with wonderful points in time.

2. Your personal dedication to the creation and success of The First Tee, a World Golf Foundation youth program launched in 1997, has helped its rapid growth to include programming at more than 1,000 golf facilities and 8,000 elementary schools, reaching more than 12.2 million young people. Why do you think supporting America’s youth is so vital?


As Joe Barrow often says, our youth are 100 percent of our future, and that certainly is the case. As society becomes more complicated, and in many ways more difficult to navigate, it raises the need for even more focus on bringing young people along and doing what we can to prepare them for a more difficult world to live in. The First Tee has proven to be a wonderfully effective way to reach so many of our youth, and that’s in large part due to the remarkable job Joe did as CEO. I believe The First Tee is now in equally capable hands for growth and development under the leadership of Greg McLaughlin.

3. Reflecting on your own experience as a young person, was there one personal milestone for you that you achieved that you are particularly proud of? How did achieving that goal make you feel?

Looking back, I’m proud that I accepted leadership as a focus at a very young age. I learned early on through my dad as a career Marine, through my time in the Boy Scouts and later on in intercollegiate debate, law school and moot court competition, to develop that interest and excitement about leadership. The things that it led to, the accomplishments, is something I’m very proud of.

4. What advice would you give to young people just starting out in the sports world about how to strive for a successful balance between athletics and academic achievement?

There are many examples of individuals in sport who have also excelled as leaders in other areas, whether it’s business, not-for-profit activity or other endeavors, because of their focus on having a healthy, balanced life. Young people can help themselves by identifying and learning from certain leadership role models, both in and outside of sports, who successfully maintain that balance.

5. After a successful career, you retired in 2016. What are you up to these days and what do you envision as the next chapter of your life?

The First Tee remains a major focus of mine these days. Because of the upside potential impact of the program on young people and the growth opportunity it has domestically and internationally, it creates an ability for those of us involved in the program to really dream about what can be, which is very exciting.

6. Complete this sentence: People who really know me, know that I……

… love the game of golf and love it even more because it can serve as a catalyst to support those who need help in a very positive way.

7. Describe yourself in three words.

Dedicated, loyal, dreamer.