In this season of giving, we want to highlight those who have given so much to our participants. Coaches work tirelessly to teach values and life skills to thousands of kids each year. They are their positive role models to these kids during the most important years of their lives. We are so thankful for all they do, and want to highlight the everyday activities that make them a unique part of our mission.
Katie Rudolph is one of these awesome leaders.
Katie Rudolph, Coach at First Tee of Metropolitan New York
How did you originally get involved with the First Tee?
I initially walked into First Tee of Charlotte back in 2010 when Jennifer MacCurrach was the ED. I was interested in volunteering, and I walked out with a job. I was simply going in to inquire about the program and fell in love with the mission, Jennifer and the then-program director, Kaitlyn Jarman. The three of us had SO much fun that first year. Every day was an adventure, to say the least. Without Jennifer (now the Executive Director in Austin) as my mentor, I wouldn’t have caught on as quickly as I did. I didn’t realize how many hats you have to wear in this job.
How long have you served as a Coach, and how has your job evolved over the years?
I initially started as a program coach. I moved to NYC and started at the Metropolitan New York chapter. There I started an all-girls program which evolved over the past seven years to include all of our campuses called Girls Golf and FORE. I took over running the Newark campus and have been overseeing the operations in Newark for the past six years. Because of our huge footprint in the NYC/NJ area, I’ve taken on the role of Chief Operating Officer for our organization, assisting our Executive Director in all things: fundraising, curriculum and staffing.
What was the biggest impact First Tee has had on your life?
I think it’s the moment you realize the kids watch every single detail about what I do. If I eat apples, the kids eat apples. If I look at my putt from the other side of the hole, the kids look at their putt from the other side. If I think my mom is cool, they think their mom is cool. Knowing you have that kind of influence is a special feeling and not one to take for granted.
What is the best part about your job?
Aside from the obvious that you get to help shape the lives of kids, the unpredictability of my day. One minute you can be wiping a kid’s nose, the next you’re giving a tour to a potential million dollar donor, and the next you’re helping a parent sign her daughter up for a college tour. No two days are ever the same, and I love that part.
What accomplishments are you most proud of, and what goals do you have going forward?
We’ve had so many success stories I am proud to be part of. I started Katie’s Golf Academy for the kids that are really taking to the game. We push the kids harder than they have ever been pushed, and that’s always exciting to see them start the program nervous and intimidated and finish more confident and proud of themselves for doing something so physically demanding. Recently, I’m most proud of being part of the team that helped bring a girl over from Kenya to play college golf. She grew up in the slums of Kibera and is now getting an American education and playing college golf. It’s wild to think that I was able to help another person in such a profound way.
Biggest takeaway from First Tee:
It boils down to the saying that if you don’t feel like you’re working, you must be doing something you love. This job is a labor of love. I always have a good time with the other First Tee coaches talking about all the little things we do on a daily basis that will never go recognized, but are the reasons a lot of us keep showing up.
You change kids’ lives every day as a First Tee Coach. Tell us a bit about a time when you witnessed such a change.
One moment that I always think back on… I took some kids who had never been on the golf course before just to see it and experience what it was like. We were on the 9th hole near the clubhouse, and from the other side of the fairway I saw a kid pull a six-iron from about 100 yards, which was way too much club. Not too concerned because he hadn’t exactly gotten any off the ground yet, I didn’t say anything. Wouldn’t you know, it was the most beautiful shot that unfortunately sailed over the green, over the fence and into the parking lot right on top of the hood of a brand new car. Talk about a teachable moment. We left a note on the car with our names on it. The poor kid was a nervous wreck. Everything turned out fine and the owner of the car was really nice about it. Fast forward to the end of the summer, I was asking the kids what their favorite day of the summer was with us. The little guy that hit the car told me that was the best day of his life. When I asked him why, he told me that was the first time he had ever taken responsibility for something. It was an “ah-ha” moment for me for sure about the impact we have.
Any other standout moments?
Too many to put into words!