County partners with First Tee to offer programming at Belleville field

Photo Courtesy of Essex County
County and township officials gather at Hendricks Field Golf Course in Belleville on June 9 to announce a partnership with First Tee to create a learning center and three-hole practice course for the youth development program at the park.

BELLEVILLE, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. announced a partnership with First Tee to create a learning center and three-hole practice course for the youth development program at Hendricks Field Golf Course in Belleville on Wednesday, June 9. This will be the second First Tee program established in Essex County and will enable the organization to enroll more children in its programs. First Tee is a nationally recognized program that uses the game of golf to help youth develop leadership skills, learn life lessons and prepare academically for higher education. Essex County welcomed First Tee to Weequahic Golf Course in Newark in 2005.

“First Tee has been a tremendous asset at Weequahic Park, teaching the game of golf to new generations of young people and preparing them for higher education and life’s challenges,” DiVincenzo said. “Expanding our partnership to Hendricks Field is a wonderful opportunity to provide enriching recreational alternatives to another area of our county and enable more young people to take advantage of it.”

The First Tee Learning Center at Hendricks Field will have a 4,000-square-foot building that has indoor and outdoor practice areas, a classroom for STEM instruction, offices, restrooms and storage space. The golf training rooms will have garage doors that can be opened so students can stand indoors and hit balls out of the building during inclement or cold weather. This also allows programs to be offered year-round. The classroom space will enable a STEM Summer Academy, tutoring and SAT prep activities to be offered.

“We are so thankful to County Executive DiVincenzo for his continued partnership and support, along with … our donors who will make our work to serve more Essex youth possible at this new First Tee campus,” First Tee Executive Director Ed Brockner said. “This remarkable learning center designed by the talented architects at Rogers McCagg, along with the beautifully renovated golf course, will allow us to introduce more youth to our recreation and Path to College programs with a focus on outreach to those in need.” 

“First Tee has been great at bringing in new generations of diverse young people into the game of golf. Just think about the opportunities this creates and the opportunities for development for our youth,” NJ State Sen. and Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said. 

“This is another wonderful occasion in Essex County,” Commissioner President Wayne Richardson said. “Projects like this elevate Essex County and make us number one.”

“I want to thank Joe D. for his commitment to getting projects done. This will be a tremendous asset in Belleville and is a great opportunity for children,” Belleville Mayor Michael Melham said.

Already under construction is a three-hole Learning Links short course in the northeast corner of Hendricks Field. Seven acres of Hendricks Field Golf Course will become part of the First Tee campus, which will include three practice holes ranging in length from 50 to 160 yards. One of the holes will be designed in the shape of a Biarritz, which has a larger green area, in line with the classical design of the Hendricks course. On this green, 10 to 12 students can be lined up for chipping practice.

A new entry point for the First Tee program will be created on Joralemon Street in Belleville, just a short distance from the Belleville Recreation Department. A small parking lot to accommodate First Tee participants and their parents will be created.

First Tee currently enrolls more than 600 youth annually in its program at Weequahic Golf Course in Newark.

First Tee hired Rogers McCagg, a Connecticut-based architectural firm that specializes in golf course facilities. APS Contracting Inc. from Paterson was awarded a publicly bid contract for $1,987,000 to build the learning facility. The county will fund the construction of the clubhouse with a grant received from the N.J. Department of Community Affairs. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021.