Interning in the communications department for The First Tee home office has not only allowed me to complete my college graduation requirements, but also, I have observed the passion that the home office staff has for this organization. I now have a full understanding why the programs are so successful—the staff is so dedicated to the mission of The First Tee.
As a past participant of The First Tee of Salina, I naturally gravitated to the internship opportunity available with the home office and was ecstatic to receive the job offer. I have experienced and learned so much from The First Tee as a junior golfer and it is so rewarding to have the opportunity to give back to this organization.
From an early age, I have been playing golf. For me, it’s a family affair—my dad plays golf, my grandparents play golf, my great grandparents play golf, aunts, uncles, cousins, basically you could name any obscure family member on my dad’s side of the family and they all play golf. So for my younger brother and I, being involved in junior programs was a given.
In 2001, The First Tee came to our local public golf course and my parents were immediately involved. My mom and several family friends were founding board members for our local chapter, and my brother and I were at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the 6-hole golf course.
For a 9 year old, this was very exciting. For the first time, the kids had a place that was all our own, which, if you know anything about golf, doesn’t happen. Golf is for grownups—kids aren’t allowed in the locker rooms and it’s frowned upon for junior golfers hang out in country club pro shops all afternoon. But through The First Tee, we were given all-access passes to the par 3 course and range punch cards for unlimited practice balls all year. We had a club house that had computers and a TV where we could hang out all afternoon and watch as much ESPN and Golf Channel as we wanted. It was awesome.
Then I got into the programming. As I went through that first year in the Par level classes, the curriculum began to stick. I learned how to introduce myself and speak respectfully to adults. I learned the rules of golf and why they were important. I learned how to set a personal par and not to evaluate my abilities compared to others.
And after that first year, I was hooked—I was hooked on golf and The First Tee. I took advantage of every possible opportunity The First Tee provided on the local and national levels. I moved quickly through the programming and by the time I was 13, I was Eagle certified.
Somewhere along the way, I realized that I wanted to play golf competitively. Up until this point I had only played in local tournaments in the summer and on my high school team. I began researching potential regional and national tournaments to help build a deeper golf résumé and with the help of my go-to team, I made a goal ladder to help me achieve my dream of playing collegiate Division I golf.
Even though my summers were busy with playing and the college recruiting process, I still wanted to stay involved with my local First Tee chapter, so I began volunteer coaching. I worked mostly with the PLAYer level, five years and under, introducing the participants to the game of golf. Golf is an incredibly hard game to pick up, and it takes a lot of patience, which for a five year old is asking a lot. Yet, seeing their faces light up when they finally hit the golf ball in the sweet spot was so rewarding for me because I knew that I had passed on my love for the game to the younger participants.
Dreams came true for me in the fall semester of my senior year of high school, as I had the incredible opportunity to play in The First Tee Open, travel to Disney World to participate in The First Tee Future Leaders Forum and sign my National Letter of Intent to play golf for Wichita State University. It was a very exciting couple of months, and some of the most cherished memories of my life.
However, once I left for college I realized that nothing could have prepared me for the responsibilities of juggling classes, practice, workouts, studying, travelling and competing; all while trying to mature through the challenges of living away from home. Many of the lessons I learned through The First Tee helped me while at Wichita State. College is a confusing time for any young adult, but thankfully, I had a solid foundation that kept me grounded. Because of my faith, and the core values instilled in me by my parents, plus the life skills I developed through The First Tee, I had a solid foundation for retaining the confidence and judgment necessary to keep my priorities in line with my educational and playing goals.
The Sport Management program at Wichita State was a natural fit for me. Inspired by The Future Leaders Forum, I have always wanted to pursue a career in sport communications and that is one of the reasons I chose Wichita State for my education. I learned a lot about communications and the sport industry in the classroom, but the on the job experience that I have gained during my internship has been irreplaceable. I learn something new about communications, about the golf industry and about The First Tee every day.
I have grown to treasure my experiences as a participant in The First Tee as a result of my internship at the home office. I’m thankful to The First Tee of Salina for supporting me through the years, and I’ve developed necessary career skills through the example of the home office staff. The First Tee is a valuable and effective mission driven organization, and my life has been forever impacted by my involvement with the wonderful people who speak for The First Tee mission. It has been an honor to represent The First Tee as a participant and an intern.