Many kids around Philadelphia choose to play sports such as football, basketball or soccer. On the other hand, what most consider an adult’s game – golf – is a sport that might not be on the minds of children. David Zimmaro, the site director of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia at FDR Golf Club, seeks to introduce kids to the sport of golf, while also making an impact on their lives.
“I always had an attraction to junior golf, it’s always something that I wanted to do,” said Zimmaro when asked about what got him into being an instructor.
Zimmaro is a PGA professional, a license that he earned with a degree in professional golf management at Penn State University. Now, he strictly focuses on learning new ways to teach.
“In teaching youth golf, I feel like I can help shape the game from the ground up,” he said. “If we start getting more people into golf at a young age, it can be a game they enjoy for the rest of their lives.”
The First Tee is an organization that began in 1997 in an attempt to bring the sport of golf to kids and teens in particular. The FDR Golf Club, not far from the stadium complex in South Philadelphia, is one of five TFT locations in the Delaware Valley. This is where Zimmaro, along with Phil Blonski and Rebecca Caimano, instruct their students.
Blonski, the program director of TFT at FDR, said Zimmaro is a professional, but still finds the time to have fun while on the course.
“He gets the most out of kids while still having a good time,” Blonski said. “The kids and staff members really enjoy working with him.”
Blonski continued to describe why Zimmaro is such an effective instructor.
“He’s a people person,” said Blonski. “I think that’s a very important quality in golf.”
Caimano has worked with Zimmaro for six years. She said his youthful personality helps when trying to connect with younger students.
“He’s very in tune with golf skills and life skills,” she said. “It’s also obvious from being around him that he’s very enthusiastic about teaching.”
One of the most important aspects of TFT is using golf to help instill positive values in the students. They aim to have fun, but also to teach the students lessons, and have them leave better than when they came in.
Caimano said that is one of the themes that Zimmaro, as well as all the staff members, try to follow.
“He [David] always wants us to think about what the kids are doing outside of golf,” Caimano said. “Anything we can do to help the kids off the course is equally important to what we can teach them on it.”
Zimmaro added, “We’re looking for kids who can golf, but more importantly, we want to try and have a lasting impact on the kids.”
He continued: “Ultimately, if we can turn out a great kid, somebody who can help out in society, we’ve done our job.”
Joe Andreozzi is a longtime volunteer at the FDR location, and said Zimmaro helped him adjust his teaching techniques.
“I have a background in coaching sports where you can be a bit more harsh, like football,” Andreozzi said. “So when I started teaching golf, there was a bit of a learning curve.”
Andreozzi mentioned that his experience coaching other sports, such as football and baseball, did not translate well to the game of golf.
“In my opinion, golf is the toughest sport to teach kids. [David] helped me change my approach to the students,” Andreozzi said. “He’s excellent, and I think he’s the best guy we have.”
Andreozzi believes that Zimmaro’s unique personality is a trait that he uses to help keep the students’ attention.
One thing Zimmaro said he uses to his advantage is his Philadelphia roots. He’s a native of Northeast Philadelphia, and uses his experience growing up there to help the students.
“I feel that I have a great connection with the kids, being from the Philadelphia area,” Zimmaro said. “I know the good places to hang out and the bad places to hang out, and can lead them in the direction to succeed in life.”
Zimmaro does have goals outside of TFT that he would like to pursue, but for now it’s all about TFT and the kids.
“Eventually, it would be a dream of mine to open my own golf course,” he said. “But for now, I’m happy where I’m at teaching the kids.”
– Text, video and images by Joseph Williams and Andrew Salciunas