By Sara Wright, PGA TOUR
Integrity, responsibility and judgement are just a few of the character strengths that the First Tee aims to instill in its participants through the game of golf. And, for Nathan Dryer, a former participant and current assistant coach with the First Tee – Northern Michigan, he intends to pass along a few more – courage, generosity and selflessness.
Nathan first started participating in the First Tee program at the age of 13, when he attended its advanced camp in Harbor Springs, Mich. He took to the program immediately and along with increasing his golf skills, he remembers being even more impressed with the amount of respect and courtesy the coaches showed him and how that increased his confidence and self-esteem. The experience led him to want to give back and eventually become an assistant coach with the local First Tee chapter.
However, life would throw him a curveball along the way. In February 2018, at the age of 16, Nathan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma — formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease — is a cancer of the lymphatic system, an integral part of your immune system. Thankfully, recent advances in diagnosis and treatment have helped give people with this disease the chance for a full recovery and, although it is rare to be found in males so young, Nathan and his family were optimistic and started treatment immediately. By June of that same year, Nathan was cancer free and coaching at First Tee throughout the summer.
“It’s not really a job for me,” Nathan said. “I love doing it.”
And that’s why when Nathan was referred to his local Make-A-Wish Foundation in Michigan, his wish wasn’t to go on a dream vacation or meet his favorite athlete or celebrity, it was to give back to a program that has meant so much to him.
“I wish to go, I wish to have, I wish to meet, I wish to be, or I wish to give,” said Make-A-Wish Michigan’s Communications and Public Relations Manager, Christy Schulte. ” Nathan chose to give.”
Wishes to give normally fall in the smallest subset of wishes the Make-A-Wish program grants every year. But give they did. In fact, Nathan asked to give $5,000 to the First Tee – Northern Michigan to offset the lack of fundraising events the local chapter was able to host this year due to COVID-19.
“I saw so many kids change and grow in the First Tee program, and to me, there’s nothing better than that feeling,” Nathan said. “I’m happy to be doing this.”
Nathan’s selflessness and desire to give back are a testament to those around him, and has become fundamental in how he approaches most everything. As he enters his senior year in high school, he plans on joining the Air Force after graduation and serving his community and country in an even bigger way.
His family, friends and First Tee – Northern Michigan couldn’t be prouder.
“I have watched him develop and grow in terms of his character, his confidence, his willingness to take responsibility and his generosity,” said Nathan’s mother Aimee. “I am really proud.”
The program director of the First Tee – Northern Michigan, Logan Paquet, agrees, adding, “He has represented the First Tee in such a humble and gracious way. It is truly outstanding.”
If you feel compelled to support First Tee programming, please donate online here at https://firsttee.org/donate/.