Kids On The Hill
In 2017, First Tee — Greater Philadelphia partnered with the Kids On the Hill Program. Kids-on-the-Hill introduces the game of golf and its life values to Police Athletic League (PAL) kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity and to continue nurturing their interest in golf by way of improving individual skills.
Kids on the Hill was originally founded in 2001 by James D. Sykes. Jim was a Philadelphia native who served three years in the United States Air Force as a pilot and Supply Officer and was released from Active Duty in 1959 as a First Lieutenant. A skilled player, Jim was a semi-finalist in the 1949 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, won the Philadelphia Junior Boys’ Championship in 1951 and was Pennsylvania Amateur Champion in 1954 and won two Pine Valley Crump Cups. He was named Executive Director of the Golf Association of Philadelphia in 1975 where he dramatically grew the organization over his 25-year tenure. He also directed The Women’s Golf Association of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Golf Association and the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust. He was an original Board member of the Philadelphia Scholastic Golf Association (the predecessor to The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia). Jim was the sole reason the Kids on the Hill program started and flourished.
Vaughn Schill said the following, “KOH was a great program envisioned by Jim Sykes, Gordon Brewer, and Dr. David Junkin to give kids an opportunity to learn golf and great life skills that can be taught through the game. Over the years, we saw the program grow in strength through our great partnership with PAL lead by Ernie Rehr and his dedicated team of fellow PAL officers. As a board member for so many years, it was an honor to serve the youth of our program and watch many of them progress through several years of our program.”
Other significant early contributors were Sergeant Michael Faust and PGA golf professional Will Reilly.
The purpose of Kids on the Hill program is to foster character development and sportsmanship for Philadelphia area children by educating them in the history, play, etiquette, and skills of golf. This is all done in a safe but extremely fun environment.
Another goal of the program is to provide caddie training and placement at area golf courses. These opportunities may lead to possible college financial assistance through the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust. During the program, representatives of golf-related practices such as manufacturer representatives, golf course superintendents, and club managers make informal presentations on a variety of careers in golf.
The Kids on the Hill program is run in the spring and summer for the youth of the Police Athletic League. The program hosts up to 100 kids where they learn life skills and the game of golf during a three day a week camp for eight weeks. The camp visits area golf courses each week to include Walnut Lane GC, Spring Mill Country Club and Five Ponds Golf Club to name a few. The PAL centers which participate provide transportation for their students.
The daily program runs from 12:00 to 4:00 and each kids receives a boxed lunch so nobody goes hungry which helps ensure all focus is on the instruction. The program has PGA golf instruction as well as from First Tee certified coaches. Many kids who have never held a golf club before learn the basics to golf and some progress quickly so they can participate in our end of camp golf opportunities out on a regulation golf course. Some of the past alumni have become coaches for the program.
Alumni Vinny Del Torro said the following, “I was eleven years old when I started with Kids on the Hill and now ten years later, as part of my internship, The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia asked me to manage the program I love. When I began working for The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia, I was excited to gain valuable work experience, but never thought I would be involved in a program I cherished as a kid”
In addition, former participant Lenny Gipson who never played golf before joining KOH was selected by The First Tee to participate in the Champions PGA Tour ‘Golf to Paradise Challenge’ in Naples, FL. Lenny and his partner came in second place among 12 other First Tee Chapter teams. Our First Tee Chapter staff were impressed by Lenny’s golf ability but, more importantly, by his sportsmanship.
The First Tee and Kids on the Hill are proud of the partnership with the Police Athletic League and are excited to keep growing the game of golf through our youth in Philadelphia which would make Jim Sykes proud.