Joe Louis Barrow, Jr.

After leading The First Tee from reaching hundreds of young people in 2000 to impacting more than four million annually, Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. has announced his intention to step down as CEO at the end of 2017 as the organization celebrates its 20th anniversary.

“Joe has served The First Tee organization, the golf community and the young people of this nation well through his visionary and impassioned leadership,” said Tim Finchem, PGA TOUR Commissioner and Chair of The First Tee and World Golf Foundation boards. “There is little doubt that his guidance has been instrumental in bringing the organization to where it is today. We are incredibly proud of and thankful for his service to the game of golf and young people through The First Tee.”

“It is hard to put into words the incredible impact Joe has had on the growth and success of The First Tee,” said Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director/CEO and a member of the World Golf Foundation board of directors. “His tireless efforts on behalf of the millions of young people who have seen their lives enriched through the program and the game of golf serves as an inspiration for us all.”

When Barrow joined The First Tee in April of 2000, the organization had just over 100 golf facilities open or in some form of development. Often called the “Chief Evangelist,” his leadership has brought about significant growth and distribution of golf and character education to young people from all walks of life across the United States and in select international locations. Under his tutelage, The First Tee’s mission evolved from a focus on providing affordable access to the game, to flourishing as a positive youth development organization, bringing the game of golf and intentional, character-building programs to young people at more than 1,000 golf courses, 8,000 schools and more than 800 after-school locations.

A few highlights of Barrow’s career include:

  • Oversight of the integration of life skills and Nine Core Values into The First Tee’s programs, helping values inherent in the game—honesty, respect and perseverance—come to life through intentional curriculum and trained adults.
  • Taking The First Tee to where young people spend time. Barrow has guided the expansion of The First Tee National School Program to more than 8,000 elementary schools in 1,200 school districts across the country. In 2013, Barrow expanded this approach through the launch of The First Tee DRIVE, a program delivered through local partnerships with other youth serving organizations including the Ys and Boys & Girls Clubs.
  • Always of the mind to improve, Barrow has led the organization to unprecedented third-party research over the years to validate the efficacy of The First Tee programs, as well as to seek opportunities for enhancement, beginning first with a longitudinal study from 2005-2008, and more recently, a study on teens and alumni.

“I am deeply proud of the positive impact The First Tee has had over the years, especially the number of young people who are now in a different place because of our work,” said Barrow. “I am grateful and gratified to know our chapters will continue the mission in their communities, delivering Nine Core Values to young people from all backgrounds, and doing so not only on golf courses, but in elementary schools and at other youth serving locations. The First Tee has and always will be more than a game to the young people we reach.”

Barrow will step down at the end of 2017, when the organization is scheduled to conclude its current strategic operating phase (2011-2017). The organization is on pace to meet its goal of bringing The First Tee programs to an additional 10 million young people over that time. The First Tee will celebrate its 20th anniversary with the world of golf during the 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club, and with its chapters at The First Tee Network Meeting at Champions Gate in Orlando, Fla. November 8-11, 2017.

A formal search for Barrow’s successor will be handled by Korn Ferry’s Global Sports Practice.

Angie Dixon, executive director for The First Tee of Greater Sacramento and member of The First Tee Chapter Advisory Council, commented on behalf of the chapter network: “Mr. Barrow has made such a tremendous impact on our organization through his leadership and passion for our mission. He is a true visionary and has inspired chapter leaders to do the great work of the organization while always keeping focused on the young people. We all remember Mr. Barrow sharing with us about the African Masai tribe that places such a high value on children’s well-being that their greeting when meeting each other is “And how are the children?” to which the traditional reply is “All the children are well.” For the Masai this means life is well and the priority of keeping the young people first is in place. Mr. Barrow’s outstanding leadership has always ensured that our primary focus is the positive impact we are making in the lives of the young people we serve. Mr. Barrow thank you so much for all you have done and please know that thanks to you and your time with The First Tee, “All the children are well.”