Executive Director of The First Tee of Metropolitan New York since 2015, and worked at the organization since 2005 in development and capital project management. Also served as Executive Director of the Met GSCA from 2011-2015. Academic All-American and Two-Time All-Ivy Selection for golf team at Yale (Class of 2001) with a Masters in Sport Administration.
THE BROCKNER STORY —
One of the most meaningful projects and programs has been at Newark’s Weequahic Park Golf Course, working with Essex County government to transform this facility. We have worked in partnership with the community and government leaders to transform this course and through the leadership of Katie Rudolph and our staff at this site, have made this a model youth learning center along with our other sites in the Met area.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
I had the good fortune to have access to great public golf facilities and competitive opportunities growing up on Long Island, and want to be able to provide and expand upon these opportunities for today’s generation of kids – particularly those young people who would not otherwise have access to these programs without The First Tee.
What was the genesis for The First Tee Metropolitan New York?
The national organization was founded in 1997, and the local chapter in 2001 through the leadership of the Rudin Family, Met PGA and Metropolitan Golf Association. Mosholu Golf Course in The Bronx was our first site and we have expanded to many more.
How many participants have been involved with the program to date?
Over 10,000 students have taken part in programs at our golf course facility locations, with more than 100,000 in outreach and golf-in-schools initiatives.
Describe the profile of your typical participant — racially, family income wise, past history with golf?
Our students run the gamut from parents and relatives who play the game regularly, to kids who would never have been introduced to golf without us with no history in the game. In our outreach, we specifically target and recruit students from racially diverse and lower income backgrounds in building partnership with various schools and community groups. Roughly 2/3 of our students are from minority backgrounds, with about 40% of participants being female.
Over $30 million has been raised to promote sustainable golf. In what specific areas has that money been used?
The majority of these funds have been raised for providing programs at our facility locations with high level instruction and education programs, including tutoring and college scholarship opportunities. We have also made significant capital investments through the creation of learning center spaces such as our youth practice area in Newark, and dedicated learning centers at Plainfield and Newark in New Jersey. We have also worked closely with public course owners and municipalities to help them improve the experience for all players, with long term agreements to guarantee affordability and access for youth. Through working with these owners and lending our expertise and investment, we also help to ensure that once youth “graduate” from The First Tee, they can continue to enjoy the game for a lifetime at these courses and others.
How much time do participants actually have in playing the game and the quality of the instruction received?
We seek to get our students on the golf course as soon as possible in their instruction, and one of the pillars of our programs is that PGA members lead the instruction at each of our facilities. If students show dedication to the program, we take them all the way through college golf recruitment and acceptance. We put great focus on quality over quantity of our programs, and know that all of the 3,000 plus kids in The First Tee all get a high quality experience. Through PGA Junior League and other programs, coupled with our access agreements with course owners, we are able to get our students out on the course in playing well over 10,000 rounds of golf annually.
You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I would create and enhance many more 2,000 yard 9-hole courses like the ones we have at Mosholu in The Bronx and Plainfield in NJ as a place to introduce youth to the game, and as a place for all ages to enjoy. By breathing new life into these facilities and building new ones as we have done at The First Tee, more lifelong golfers will be created in developing places where everyone in the community can enjoy open space together.
The major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA Tour — are all seeking ways to attract new players — especially among Millennials, women and minorities. Given your success what would you recommend be their point of emphasis?
My emphasis would be on support of facilities such as the ones where we introduce the game, and celebrating these type of places that provide a way for people to learn and enjoy golf in a way that is affordable and not time consuming. By helping to make to municipalities showing all of the positive impact that game can have, golf and its leadership must demonstrate the public benefits of the game not just to golfers but to everyone in the community.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
My first job in golf after college was working for the construction crew at Boston Golf Club for golf architect Gil Hanse. He told me that if you take on too many projects that the quality of the work will suffer and you will miss out on the little details that allow you to create something special. It has been a guiding force in how I approach The First Tee, in working to make sure that all of our facilities and programs are of the highest quality.
The biggest short and long term challenges facing the organization is what?
In both the short and long term, our biggest challenge is finding a wide base of support from both golfers and non-golfers who recognize the value and impact that our program has on young people. As we mature as an organization and graduate more students who are successful in their careers, I feel confident that will help to provide us with support from those who have benefitting and are passionate about what The First Tee helped them to achieve.
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