Pro Kids Golf Academy, Inc., known today at Pro Kids, First Tee – San Diego was established in 1994 by Ernest Wright, Sr., and a group of community advocates with the mission to challenge underserved youth to excel in life by promoting character development, life skills, and values through education and the game of golf. We can deliver our mission to those who need it most because of publicly owned golf courses. California legislators are set to vote on AB-672 on January 12, 2022. If passed, this bill would give $50 million in developer subsidies to redevelop California’s municipal golf courses into housing complexes, 25% of which would be affordable housing.
Colina Park Golf Course in City Heights, the home of Pro Kids, First Tee –San Diego is one of these courses. Owned by the City of San Diego and operated by the organization, Colina Park Golf Course gives Pro Kids Members a place to call home. We currently serve over 400 kids throughout San Diego at this publicly owned golf course; giving them access to opportunities, resources, and experiences that aren’t available to them elsewhere—programs that combine sport, study, and service—and a path towards higher education. Colina Park Golf Course is an accessible place for the public to learn the game of golf, get outside, and appreciate green space together. Golf was one of the only activities available to the public at the start of the pandemic, and in 2021 we have seen 34,386 rounds played at Colina Park Golf Course, with almost $500,000 in revenue generated from these rounds—funds that directly support the organization, kids, families, and communities we serve. Many of the people who play Colina Park Golf Course learn about City Heights because of the public facility and would not experience San Diego’s most diverse neighborhood without the golf course.
Our campus in Oceanside (in operation since 2012) shares the same mission of supporting kids and families in North County and is located directly across from Oceanside Municipal Golf Course, another publicly owned golf course. We rely on the course’s maintenance team to keep up our 6-hole, par 3 course for the kids, and a long-standing partnership with Oceanside Muni to give our 150 Pro Kids Members in North County access to a driving range, full-course playing opportunities, and the wildlife ecosystem kids get to experience when we take them for a visit to Muni. Because of this partnership, Pro Kids members who started in the program at seven years old can call themselves golfers who are playing at the high school and college levels. These opportunities, and many more doors that will open for Pro Kids Members through the game of golf, would simply not be possible without the staff, maintenance team, and overall partnership with Oceanside Municipal Golf Course.
AB-672 directly threatens our mission, and the greater mission of First Tee national, to “build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that kids can carry to everything they do” through the game of golf. Publicly owned courses are often the only kind of courses accessible to not only underserved communities, but also middle class and even upper-middle class families in San Diego County. Golf is a game for everyone and should be accessible to anyone. Colina Park Golf Course and Oceanside Municipal Golf Course are fundamental to the wellbeing of City Heights and Oceanside. Passing AB-672, despite good intentions around affordable housing, is a direct vote against the home Pro Kids has built for the communities we serve.
If you want to protect municipal golf courses, one of the biggest steps you can take is contacting your local representative and voicing your opposition to AB-672. Click on SCGA’s Public Golf Endangerment Act site for a sample letter to send your representative before the vote on Wednesday, January 12th.