New CEO appointed to lead The First Tee as it reaches 20-year milestone

Jersey City, New Jersey (September 29, 2017) – Keith Dawkins, an executive for Viacom’s Nickelodeon, will become The First Tee’s next CEO, it was announced today by the World Golf Foundation Board of Directors.

PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan, incoming CEO of The First Tee Keith Dawkins, President George W. Bush, The First Tee CEO Joe Louis Barrow Jr, Former PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem pose for a photo during The First Tee Trustees Breakfast prior to the second round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 29, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

President George W. Bush, The First Tee’s Honorary Chairman, welcomed Dawkins to the position this morning at Liberty National Golf Club, site of the 2017 Presidents Cup, alongside The First Tee Chairman Tim Finchem, who introduced Keith to the organization’s Trustees during a breakfast meeting. Dawkins will replace current CEO, Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., who is set to retire at the end of 2017.

“The First Tee is a very effective and very necessary program for our nation’s youth and future,” President Bush remarked. “I’m proud to be the Honorary Chairman and to have worked with Joe Barrow, and I thank him for his leadership over the years. I congratulate Keith Dawkins and look forward to working with him. The First Tee, and thousands of young people, will benefit from his energy and experience.”

“On behalf of the World Golf Foundation Board of Directors, I am pleased to welcome Keith Dawkins to the world of golf and to The First Tee as its next CEO,” said Mike Whan, LPGA Commissioner and Chairman of the Foundation. “We were unanimous in our decision and believe Keith’s experience, passion and demonstrated leadership will undoubtedly build on the successes that Joe Barrow so thoughtfully achieved.”

Dawkins will begin his role with The First Tee on October 16 as incoming CEO, and he will officially take the reins as CEO upon Barrow’s retirement, January 1, 2018. Dawkins will report to the World Golf Foundation Board and The First Tee Advisory Board.

“Keith is a dynamic leader who brings a suite of assets to the position, most notably a proven track record of forming high-level and lasting partnerships, organizational management and innovation, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Finchem. “I am thankful for Joe’s unwavering commitment to The First Tee over the past 18 years, and I trust the transition of leadership will mean continued momentum for the organization.”

Dawkins is a 25-year veteran of media and entertainment, most recently serving as Executive Vice President of Nickelodeon. While at Nickelodeon, he had overseen tween/teen-targeted and animation-based networks TeenNick and Nicktoons, as well as Nick Jr. and NickMusic.

Dawkins also led key multi-screen initiatives including NickSplat, targeting adults who love ’90s Nickelodeon, and Nickelodeon Sports. Through Nickelodeon Sports, he helped forge relationships with all major sports leagues to create new, multi-platform content and drive marketing events and initiatives, including an on-site presence at Super Bowl LI in Houston. Dawkins recently led the engagement between the PGA TOUR and Nickelodeon, which resulted in a PGA TOUR-themed weekend on Nickelodeon and an on-site branded kids’ zone at THE PLAYERS Championship.

During his tenure with Viacom, Dawkins served on numerous advisory boards that fostered diversity and inclusion, including the Viacom Office of Global Inclusion Advisory Committee. He joined Viacom in 2000 as a supervising producer for VH1 News, and prior to that, Dawkins was a Fox News Channel producer, where he was part of the network’s original launch team.

Dawkins holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from Ramapo College (currently sitting on their Board of Governors), and he is a graduate of the CTAM Executive Management Program at Harvard Business School and the National Association of Multi-ethnicity In Communications (NAMIC) Leadership Program at UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management.

“I am excited to be joining The First Tee and look forward to working alongside both Boards and key stakeholders—including chapters—to build upon the success and foundation of the organization,” Dawkins said. “We are currently looking at the largest and most diverse group of kids our country has ever seen….which creates an abundance of future opportunities for golf and The First Tee for years to come.”

Barrow joined The First Tee in 2000 as Vice President and National Director, and he became CEO in 2008. In late 2016, Barrow announced his plans to retire from The First Tee at the end of 2017 as the organization celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Barrow has advanced the organization from 100 golf facilities open or in development in 2000 to The First Tee programs being delivered at 1,200 golf locations, in more than 9,000 elementary schools and in partnership with more than 1,000 youth serving agencies. He also helped to crystalize The First Tee Nine Core Values, which are now a signature aspect of all programs, ensuring that young people learn not only the game of golf, but the important values associated with it including respect, integrity and judgment.

In recent years, Barrow led The First Tee through an ambitious effort to reach 10 million additional young people between 2011 and 2017, and he built its capacity to reach more than 5 million young people annually through the various programming channels.

On November 13, 1997, New York City’s Central Park served as the backdrop for the launch of The First Tee. President George H. W. Bush kicked off the announcement and served as the organization’s Honorary Chair until passing the baton to his son, President George W. Bush, in 2011. The event included representation from then-leaders of The First Tee Founding Partner organizations: Jim Armstrong (Augusta National Golf Club); Jim Awtrey (PGA of America); Judy Bell (USGA); Tim Finchem (PGA TOUR); and Jim Ritts (LPGA).

The First Tee will celebrate its 20th anniversary with the chapters at a biennial meeting at Omni ChampionsGate in Orlando, Florida, from November 8–11, 2017.

For more information, visit

About The First Tee

The First Tee ( is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit youth development organization whose mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. With its home office at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., The First Tee reaches young people on golf courses, in elementary schools, and at other youth-serving locations.

Since its inception in 1997, The First Tee has grown its network to deliver programs in all 50 United States. In 2016, The First Tee brought character education through the game of golf to more than 5.3 million young people. The First Tee’s Founding Partners are LPGA, the Masters Tournament, PGA of America, PGA TOUR and the USGA. Johnson & Johnson is The First Tee’s Legacy Partner and Southern Company is its Education Patron. Former President George W. Bush serves as honorary chair.


Jane Fader, [email protected], 904.940.4330 (office)

Sara Henika, [email protected], 904.940.4341 (office)