Lifelong passion: Kocolene president’s retirement honored with donation for child golf programs

Kocolene president’s retirement honored with donation for child golf programs

A donation made in honor of a Seymour businessman’s retirement will help elementary-age students in the area learn the basic skills and values of golf.

Beginning second semester in January, golf will be introduced to students at all five elementary schools in Seymour Community School Corp. in their physical education classes.

Doug Prather, president of Kocolene Development Corp. in Seymour, recently spoke to school board trustees, explaining how the employee-owned company had decided to donate enough money to purchase equipment and provide curriculum to teach golf through The First Tee of Indiana program.

The donation was made in recognition of former president Gary Myers’ 40-plus year career with Kocolene. Myers retired Sept. 3 and was the third generation of his family to run the business.

“We started thinking about what we were going to do to honor him,” Prather said. “It really wasn’t a difficult decision. He’s had a lifelong passion for golf and youth.”

Those two things combined got Kocolene in contact with the Indiana Golf Foundation Office, which helped organize the partnership to offer The First Tee of Indiana program in Seymour.

In a letter to Kocolene employees, Myers wrote that golf has been a major influence in his life.

“I have been enriched by this amazing game beyond measure,” Prather read from Myers’ letter. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others. I’ve played great games in many states and foreign countries.”

Myers said he has had the opportunity to play golf with famous people, such as the late Arnold Palmer, as well as his own family, including his dad, brother and children.

“Honoring me through the golf foundation was the greatest thing you could have done,” Myers said in the letter. “I’m appreciative and very touched.”

Kristtini Hunt, operations manager of The First Tee of Indiana program, said the national school program does more than introduce students to just the game of golf.

“More importantly, it introduces them to our nine core values and our nine healthy habits,” she said. “It’s really an all-encompassing program.”

Values include honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. Healthy habits involve physical, mental and social wellness.

Kocolene’s donation allows for the purchase of needed equipment, including plastic clubs and tennis balls, targets and a curriculum manual providing hundreds of lesson plans to incorporate core values and golf skills, Hunt said.

Teachers will have to complete three hours of online training, supplemented with an in-person workshop to identify what works best for each school.

Autumn Strong, development director with The First Tee of Indiana program, said one of the goals was to expand into more schools and more areas.

Currently, at the national level, there are First Tee programs in 8,000 schools. In Indiana, it is taught in 225 schools reaching about 70,000 children, Strong said.

The program started in Indianapolis in 2010 and has spread as far north as Elkhart and as far south as Evansville.

“Since the program came under the umbrella of the Indiana Golf Foundation in 2012, no school has had to pay for their equipment, thanks to community fundraising and donations,” she said.

By the end of 2017, Strong said the hope is to be in 250 elementary schools.

After completing The First Tee program in the schools, students can then enroll in First Tee classes at participating golf courses until the age of 18.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.