Being mentioned in the same sentence as Tiger Woods is an honor most people never experience, but First Tee alumnus Norman Xiong isn’t “most people.” In 2018, college recruiter Casey Martin from the University of Oregon said, “At 19 years old, I think Tiger is the only guy I would defer to as being better than Norman. I haven’t seen much better than him at that age. He’s really that good.”
Fast forward four years and perseverence, and you’ll find Norman at TPC Twin Cities, where he’ll play his first PGA TOUR event in over two years this week in the 3M Open.
The road hasn’t always been easy. Growing up on the tiny island nation of Guam, Norman never dreamed of playing professional golf. It wasn’t until his family moved to San Diego when he was six years old that a stroke of destiny would start to take shape. That’s where Norman was introduced to First Tee.
“[First Tee] became a second home for me as I grew through elementary school. It was a place I could go and learn about myself, others, do my homework, and learn many life skills early in life. It’s also a place where I’ve met some of my best friends. For example, I met Donald Kay in Par class when I was 6 years old. 13 years later, Donald and I were roommates and played together at Oregon. I can say without a doubt that my life has been greatly improved because of the First Tee program.”
With the drive and passion First Tee instilled in Norman, his decision to play college golf was an easy one.
“Growing up at First Tee, college was always something I knew I would do. There was talk with people around golf that I may just turn pro after high school. But I always knew college was something I wanted to experience.
My situation starting at Oregon was unique. I graduated high school early and began at Oregon mid-school year. It was a tough transition to begin something as new as college when all the other freshmen were already in the rhythm of things. During these challenges, I relied even more on the life skills I learned at First Tee. Skills like meeting someone new, goal setting, and time management were all key in making the transition as smooth as possible.”
As Norman tees off today at the 3M Open, we wish him luck as continues to learn from his past and forge a future as a professional golfer and more importantly, someone who wants to make a difference.