Building a Culture of Family Through Golf

Pamela Arbisi, director of business development for The First Tee of St. Petersburg, currently works out of an office at Mangrove Bay golf course.

Pamela Arbisi, director of business development for The First Tee of St. Petersburg, currently works out of an office at Mangrove Bay golf course.

The First Tee of St. Petersburg, an outreach organization that uses golf to help build life skills for kids ages 6 to 18, is anxiously awaiting the completion of their 3000+ square foot mentoring center at Twin Brooks golf course. The building will become the hub of all their programs and house an art center, library, computer room, tutoring center and more. The mentoring center was slated to open in November. Now, ground-breaking will more likely take place at the end of October or the beginning of November.

“Our hope was that we would be having a ground-breaking ceremony in July; however, things have been delayed,” said Pamela Arbisi, director of business development at The First Tee of St. Petersburg. “At this point, our construction documents have been submitted to the city, and we are awaiting their approval and/or list or revisions. We are in a holding pattern, but still very excited we are in the process.”

Due to unforeseen costs of federal requirements such as flood elevation issues, the non-profit is hoping to raise an additional $250,000 to match a federal grant it received this year.

“Federal grants have different requirements than city grants might have,” said Arbisi. “There are other thresholds to meet that you don’t realize until you start a project this size.”

The First Tee of St. Petersburg is working in tandem with the city of St. Petersburg, which is revitalizing the Twin Brooks golf course. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman pushed for upgrades to the course, located in a lower income part of the city, to keep the course in line with the city’s two newer courses, Mangrove Bay and Cypress Links. Twin Brooks, located at 3800 22nd Avenue South, was built in 1957 as an 18-hole Par 3 course. The course is being converted to a 12-hole Par 3 course, with nine holes open for public play and three practice holes dedicated to The First Tee of St. Petersburg. The course, nearing completion, was leveled and completely reconstructed with better turf and design.

“Rick Kriseman really stepped up by redoing Twin Brooks,” said Arbisi. “We planned to build the mentoring center at Twin Brooks anyway, but we are really excited about the new, updated course.”

After months of work that began in May, the course is on track to open as scheduled.

“We are shooting for October 1,” said Jeff Hollis, director of St. Petersburg’s three public golf courses. “All the rain hurt us, and there were some washouts, but we are on track for an October 1 opening.”

The St. Petersburg chapter of The First Tee reaches over 4,100 youth participants annually via classes, clinic and camps with 85 percent considered “at risk.” The program is built around The First Tee Nine Core Values® of honesty, integrity, confidence, perseverance, respect, sportsmanship, responsibility, courtesy and judgment. The First Tee also provides scholarship assistance to over 75 percent of participants. The program is fee-based, but through a combination of grants and individual and corporate contributions, no child is turned away because he or she can’t pay.

Until the Twin Brooks course reopens, kids in the Saturday scholarship class have had no place to go due to a sold out success rate of camps at the city’s sister courses. Instead, the outreach has been taken on the road this summer with activities such as bowling and fishing.

“It is challenging to work without a building to do all we want to do,” said Arbisi. “We have a beautiful mix of all walks of life blended together and are creating a culture of family.”

Find out more about the program at Charity events, such as the upcoming 2015 Summer Golf Classic at Isla Del Sol Yacht and Country Club on August 29, also help fund day-to-day operations costs. Find them on Facebook at for updates and more information.

To read more about The First Tee of St. Petersburg, go to

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