This summer, we hosted our inaugural First Tee National Championship at Clemson University’s The Walker Course. This event brought together 24 girls and 24 boys from 32 First Tee chapters across the country to showcase their golf skills and learn what it is like to play at a collegiate level. During the week, participants had the opportunity to hear from PGA Head Golf Professional Steve Scott, AJGA’s Lauren Shelley and play four days on one of the country’s best collegiate courses.
At the end of the tournament, only two participants walked away with a victory and the Tattersall Cup. We recently caught up with the two winners to see what this year’s National Championship was like for them.
Ashton Harper, First Tee – Roanoke Valley
The First Tee National Championship was a great experience for me. It was a great opportunity for me to make new friends with the top players from across the country out of the first tee. It was also a great experience to get to stay in the Clemson area, be able to explore the area, and get to walk around the campus. I really enjoyed getting to play the Walker Course. It had an amazing layout and was in great condition. This was the first time I had ever played on zoysia greens and I thought they were great. I really didn’t have any lows for the week, we did have a weather delay but other than that everything was great. I had a lot of highs throughout the week. One high was playing my first bogey free round in a competition. I learned that I could handle pressure down the stretch of a tournament. Especially this one since we had to go into a sudden death playoff. I also learned that my golf game is capable of shooting under par for three straight days. It feels great to be the boy’s winner and the first winner of the event. I am also grateful for the opportunities I have received since winning, especially the exemption in the Pure Championship. My favorite part of the week was being able to meet all the other players and making new friends.
Symran Shah, First Tee – Greater Dallas
I want to start off by first thanking The First Tee for this wonderful opportunity to represent the Dallas Chapter in the inaugural First Tee National Championship. My week at Clemson was packed with new experiences and memorable moments like meeting Steve Scott and hearing about the journey within the walls of the beautiful Memorial Stadium. I connected with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and made new friends playing putting contests after our rounds.
Coming out to Clemson and being able to play the Walker Course was truly an amazing experience. I was impressed by the beauty of the course, the course design and especially the challenging greens. In fact one of my favorite things about the Walker course was how tough the greens were. Trying to understand how the putts were going to break was like playing a game all of its own – it was both challenging and fun!
If I had to pinpoint an aspect of my game that was working well throughout the week, I would say it was my ability to pin the balls on my approach shots and staying in the fairway on my drives. Some of the holes were difficult and required strategic placement off the tee box. Hole 9 was one of these holes- not only is it a long hole, but the approach shot onto the green requires a precise 5wood or 3wood. If you don’t hit that green just right, it will find all sorts of trouble.
When I came to this event, I really wasn’t sure what to expect so going into the first day, my goal was simply to have fun and place well. I was able to accomplish that goal by placing in the top 3 going into the second day. It also gave me the momentum I needed to push myself for the next two days playing amongst a strong and competitive field. Going into the third day it was anyone’s game and my competitor and I were going back and forth all day until the last and final hole. It was my birdie finish that sealed the outcome!!
When I came to this tournament my goal was to just place- never did I imagine that I’d be walking off 18 green a winner on the last day. It was such an exhilarating feeling, not just because I knew what I had accomplished but to see all my friends, the parents, the volunteers in the gallery supporting me, it was a feeling like no other!