A Game for All

First Tee Chapters provide inclusive golf and character building programs for all kids and teens 

By Megan Hart, First Tee HQ 

About a quarter of Americans have a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but as many organizations have redoubled their focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in recent years, this group can often go overlooked in discussions on the topic. 

For 25 years, First Tee has shown up every day, determined to ensure that every kid and teen feel welcome and included. First Tee – Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky is just one example of our Chapters who promote inclusive programs.  

The Chapter partners with organizations like Els for Autism, Special Olympics of Hamilton County and SCRATCHgolf to serve players of all abilities and skill levels, proving golf is for everyone. 

Thanks in part to the United States Golf Association’s IDEA Grant, the chapter has been able to expand its opportunities for all kids. The IDEA Grant was created to promote inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility efforts at the local golf level. This grant program awarded $200,000 from USGA to First Tee Chapters across the country in 2021. 

“USGA’s support is a game changer for the youth in the communities that we serve,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “With these grants, our chapters are opening the door to even more youth, especially in underserved and underrepresented communities, to explore the possibilities in golf and beyond as they build their character and life lessons through the game.” 

The USGA’s efforts to make golf more inclusive go far beyond its work with First Tee. The association will host the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open at Pinehurst this July, which will feature the globe’s top golfers with disabilities, including those with limb impairments, intellectual and neurological impairments and seated golfers. Among the field is First Tee — Tampa Bay alum Joey Hill and First Tee — Triangle alum Zachary Duncan! 

‘You just have to love the kids and find out what they need’ 

First Tee – Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky is focused on reaching children from all backgrounds and abilities, and with the help of the USGA and other organizations, they have found creative ways to become more accessible. 

The Chapter will bring back programming for kids with autism this fall after it was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff first trained with Els for Autism in 2018.  

Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky also partners with Special Olympics of Hamilton County to introduce participants to golf. The program attracted about 20 kids per year before the pandemic, and it’ll return this summer for a weekly series.  

Three kids have transitioned from the Chapter’s Special Olympics program to its golf course program, and Executive Director Alicia Yund recalls seeing a Special Olympics participant return for a community field day hosted by the chapter. 

“It was cool to see him thriving and see how all the other kids were in awe of him and his ability to hit the ball,” she said. “It’s great when all kids are included.” 

Wendy Mockabee manages the School Program at First Tee – Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky, which integrates First Tee’s life skills program into elementary and middle schools in the community. One of the participating schools exclusively serves special needs students, and it’s been inspiring to see how teachers have adapted First Tee programming to meet the needs of the kids. For example, teachers attached a leaf blower to a golf club so children with mobility challenges could instead push a button to move the ball. 

In addition, the chapter hosts programming for kids with life-threatening and chronic health challenges, including SCRATCHgolf. In partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute and the Congenital Heart Alliance of Cincinnati, the chapter recently held a multiday camp for kids with heart defects, who are then provided scholarships for future programming. 

“We’ve been very focused on making sure all kids have a safe space, an environment where we’re prepared to make any modifications necessary to make them feel welcome and part of First Tee community,” Yund said. “Weaving accessibility and inclusion into programming — outside of finding more volunteers — it’s not a daunting or taxing effort. You just need to love the kids and find out what they need.” 

A number of First Tee chapters within the network offer youth development and programming for participants with disabilities. Contact your local chapter to learn more. 

JP Ray – First Tee Alumnus

What happens when you provide free programs? The results are game-changing. 

With support from Southern Hills Country Club, host of this week’s PGA Championship, First Tee – Tulsa provides free character-building programs to everyone who walks through their door. JP Ray is one of many participants impacted by the program.

Developing Positive Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a great time to check in with yourself and consider how you might be able to support others. 

“Showing up for others means that you are there for someone when they need you,” explained Emma Laker, a participant with First Tee — Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky. “You show kindness by helping others and not just thinking of yourself. You give people the respect they deserve.” 

Mental health challenges can affect anyone – from professional golfers to friends and family. In 2019, a third of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

All of that is to say: If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. 

Be there for your team and ask for help when you need it 

Emma said it feels good to have people she can count on. “It shows me that I am surrounded by friends and family that love me no matter what. I can look up to my friends and family to help me through the rough times,” she said. 

Who is on your go-to team? Maybe it’s family, friends, teachers and coaches. Building strong relationships is one of the best strategies for improving your mental health, according to the CDC. 

Game Changers seek out good groups of people that lift them up and allow them to feel safe to be themselves. 

If you’re feeling alone, there are organizations that can help

Talk about your feelings 

It takes lots of courage to speak out about mental health issues you may be facing. By sharing your challenges, you’re not only helping yourself but others, too.  

Recently prominent members of the sports world, from Simone Biles to Michael Phelps, have talked about their own struggles and the importance of destigmatizing mental health challenges. No one should feel embarrassed or scared to acknowledge the difficulties they’re facing. 

Talking about your problems is the best way to find help! Some mental health situations do require bigger interventions, which is why it’s important to talk to adults about how you’re feeling. 

Develop a healthy mindset 

As we’ve all seen over the last few years, there are periods when unexpected challenges appear. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many kids experienced the difficulties that come with virtual school, family financial troubles and even losing loved ones.  

Fortunately, there are ways to help prepare for tough times.  

  • Stay positive: Don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t go perfectly and take a few moments to feel proud of your victories – no matter how small. 
  • Do your best: Giving your best effort helps you realize your capabilities. 
  • Give back: Emma volunteers at her church and school, and it feels amazing, she said. “I realize how extremely lucky and blessed I am to have all the love and support of my family and friends. When I am helping others, I feel like I am giving them some of my joy and happiness.” 
  • Take ownership: It’s normal to feel anxious sometimes but remember that you have control over many of the challenges you face. Practicing problem solving tools like STAR – Stop, Think, Anticipate, Respond – can help you feel empowered when future difficulties arise. 

Building Understanding, Trust and Empathy with Active Listening

Every conversation can be an opportunity to learn something new, build trust with someone, and deepen connections. This happens when we build the skill of active listening and learn to treat listening as an active process – not a passive one. 

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. It’s about being present, listening to understand (not respond), and showing active interest and engagement in the dialogue.  

Why does it matter? 

Active listening is an important skill for all of us to cultivate. Not only is it an important leadership skill, it has been shown to promote mindful thinking, can reduce anxiety and depression, helps build relationships and can promote empathy.  

How do we practice it?

At First Tee, we use a process called A-L-R to help build connection through active listening. This helps us to deepen conversations, keep them going, and get the most out of them. Here’s how A-L-R works:

  • Asking questions: Asking thoughtful questions is not only a way you can keep the conversation going, but it gives you a deeper understanding of the person or topic you are engaging with. 
    • Helpful Tip: Be curious. Try asking questions that dig a bit deeper: How did they feel in that moment? What was going on in their minds during that experience? What would they do differently the next time? These make the conversation richer, rather than closed-ended questions that are typically answered with a simple Yes or No.  
  • Listening to understand: When you ask a question, it is important to listen carefully to what the person is saying. We can sometimes be fixated on what we are going to say next, or when it’s our turn to jump back into the conversation, but try not to think about what you are going to say next.. Your focus is on them and their perspective rather than your own. 
    • Helpful Tip: Make an effort to try to clear your mind first of any distracting thoughts. It can help to jot down a mental or physical note of things on your mind in order to give your full attention. 
  • Reflect & respond to the reply: Keep the conversation going by responding in a way that connects with what they just said. You can try to restate in your own words what the person said, share what you think or feel about it, or ask another open-ended question that connects with what the person just said.
    • Helpful Tip: Show engagement and interest in what they are saying: look them in the eye when they are talking, use body language like nodding your head.


Active listening requires work, but you’ll be surprised at how much reward there is when you approach conversations and communication with this skill. Active listening is just one of the skills we are supporting kids and teens to build at First Tee. Click here to find out more about our programs.

Coach Ron Castillo: coach, mentor and friend

Golf is a fun and challenging platform for growth, helping kids and teens build the confidence to show up to a challenge, the resilience to keep going when they fail, and the inner strength to do the right thing, even with it’s the hard thing. For today’s youth, First Tee provides mentors who help them write their personal growth story. Ron Castillo, First Tee – North Florida Program Director since 2017, has been a part of First Tee since 2001.

“I moved back to Atlanta after working as an assistant golf professional in Hilton Head, SC. I called one of my professional mentors and told him I was looking for a job. His reply was, “yes, I’ll always have a job for you. Come by tomorrow.” I have been involved with First Tee ever since. Speaks volumes to having a Go-To Team!”

For twenty years he’s been a coach, a mentor and a friend. He can tell you stories about numerous participants and families he’s gotten to know and how their kids have grown to be college graduates, doctors, entrepreneurs, husbands, wives, parents, and yes, professional golfers. 

When he joined First Tee, he was ready for the next stage in his career. He stays for something much more personal.

“Simply put, I stay because I absolutely love what I do. Being a coach at First Tee has helped me be a better husband and father. I find myself thinking about First Tee lessons when advising my son and making decisions for my household.”

Coach Ron shares with us why golf is the perfect sport for learning lifelong skills and fostering personal growth.

Become a Coach

At First Tee, we need enthusiastic and caring individuals to serve as positive mentors and role models to kids and teens of various backgrounds. Your involvement can directly impact the kids we serve and the skills they develop.

Monica Blake – Lessons in Leadership

At First Tee, we guide kids to strengthen what’s inside and put it into action because strong character, inner strength and resilience is needed now more than ever. This month we are talking to leaders within our Network about their experiences and key lessons learned over the course of their careers.

Monica Blake, First Tee – Central Arkansas

What is your current role at First Tee and what is the most rewarding part of your job?

My name is Monica Blake and I am the Executive Director of First Tee-Central Arkansas. The most rewarding part of my job is making a positive impact on the lives of the youth and families we serve in Central Arkansas. As the Executive Director I’m able to serve as the voice of our participants and advocate on their behalf. I am also a certified First Tee coach and I have been intentional about staying involved in the coaching process. I believe that in order to be a successful leader it’s important that I stay connected to our participants and our mission. As the Executive Director, it’s essential to be a good steward of our donors and sponsoring donations and it’s very rewarding to see those contributions directly impact the youth that we serve.

This month we’re celebrating Black History Month and lifting up voices of Black participants, coaches and leaders exploring what it means to be a leader. What does leadership mean to you?

I believe that leadership isn’t about a title or position that you hold, but that it’s about the difference you make in someone’s life. As the leader of First Tee- Central Arkansas it’s important that I’m putting everyone within our organization in a position to not only be  successful, but to facilitate an environment where each participant, coach, and volunteer aspire to be the change they seek in the lives of the youth that we serve.

Did you always know you wanted to be in a leadership role? Can you share a little bit about your journey and how you’ve developed into your current role?

My journey with First Tee began in an entry level role as a volunteer coach in 2012. It was in this role, I realized the value that each position within the organization holds, and how it’s sometimes the person who’s the initial point of contact, that can make the biggest impact on a participant. As I reflect on my growth in the organization, and how my career has progressed, I was extremely fortunate for the opportunity to serve as a volunteer. It was instrumental in laying a foundation of what it means to serve and how to incorporate service into my leadership style. I quickly moved into the role of a paid coach and from there I was promoted to Program Director, where I served for 6 years. Being the Program Director allowed me to connect with the curriculum we were teaching and our mission as an organization and how it impacts each participant. In 2019, I became the first female African-American Executive Director of First Tee-Central Arkansas. I know it was every role that I’ve served, which helped prepare me for this amazing opportunity within this organization and has put me in the greatest position to be successful .

Who were some of the strong voices or mentors in your life that inspired you?

Harold Banks has been a mentor to not only myself, but to countless golfers throughout the Central Arkansas area. Harold was always willing to share his knowledge, skills and expertise with everyone in the golf community. He always had a positive attitude and took a personal interest in mentoring the next generation. Harold was instrumental in advancing black golfers in Little Rock and often his advice extended far beyond the golf course. He was respected by golfers throughout Central Arkansas and left a lasting impact on golfers for generations to come. The impact Harold has made on our community is something that truly inspires and motivates me to become a mentor and leader in the community.

Can you give an example of a challenge you have faced in your career and how have you worked to overcome it?

Having to lead during a pandemic was certainly a challenge and continues to be each day. One important lesson I’ve learned is how to constantly adapt to ever changing  circumstances and continue to modify and adjust as necessary. Flexibility and the power of teamwork are key pillars I have to lean on. Together, as an organization, we were able to navigate through our new circumstances and now we’re in a position to advance our organization even further. We were forced to evaluate our operations through a different lens, and I feel programming has benefited as a result.

How does or can First Tee play a role in bringing more diversity to our game? 

First Tee has the opportunity to play a fundamental role in increasing diversity in golf, especially in Central Arkansas.  The mission of our organization has always been to introduce our programming to underserved communities and now we have the opportunity to lead the charge in bringing diversity and inclusion into the game of golf. This is done by elevating black voices within the community and developing a plan to identify the disconnections and expanding opportunities for minorities. As an organization it is our responsibility to ensure that all participants are having an equitable experience.

What advice do you have for young people entering the job market determined to make a career for themselves?

My advice for young people entering the job market would be to find something that you are passionate about and where you can make a difference. Golf has always played a significant role in my life and as I’ve grown older so has the desire to help people in my community. I’m very fortunate to now serve in a role where I get to blend these two together. It is important to make an impact on the world around you and to help those who are in need.

Adaptability: Changing How We Respond to Change

Whether it’s the kind of change we choose or the unexpected kind, it can be hard, uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Change comes in different shapes: having to shift to online schooling, starting college or moving to a new city, a tree in the line of our otherwise perfect shot. We know change is inevitable. Our ability to adapt to changes is what can determine our success both on and off the course. 

Understanding our relationship to change can be an important first step in developing adaptability. To do this we can ask ourselves: How comfortable am I when unexpected things happen? Do I see change as a good or bad thing? How do I feel when changes are happening – do I get anxious or do I find it energizing? Am I open to changes to my routines or do I avoid them at all costs? 

Having tools or a process can help us effectively deal with changes, and become more comfortable overtime. At First Tee, we utilize a tool called STAR to support kids and teens to build their confidence as they deal with challenges and changes on the course and in daily life. Try it out for yourself: think of the last change or shift that occurred in your daily life and try these 4 steps. 

STAR

  • Stop: This is where you pause and give your mind a break. Take a breath. What are things that help you calm down? 
  • Think: Consider your choices. What are some of the choices you have in this situation? Think of it from all angles.  
  • Anticipate: This means to look ahead. What could happen (good or bad) as a result of each choice? Think about how each consequence will affect your ability to reach your goals.
  • Respond: Select the best choice of what to do. Each person’s “best choice” may be different from the next. The best choice is one that helps you progress to your goal while maintaining your values. 

There is no guarantee to successful outcomes, but these techniques and routines can help us more effectively deal with change. This helps us grow into stronger individuals, better equips us for whatever comes our way, and can create new opportunities along the way.  

Want to get involved with what we are building at First Tee? Click here to find out more. 

Resilience Begins With Failure

“Who has made a fabulous mistake we can all learn from?” 

This is something you might hear one of our coaches ask a group of participants. What comes next is a flood of responses – everything from forgetting to clean their room, an embarrassingly rogue golf swing, getting a horrible test grade, to regretfully saying something mean to a friend.  

What the coaches are supporting participants to learn is something we all continually confront in our daily lives: how to grow through challenge. Building these muscles of resilience at an early age – and learning to build them in fun ways – is something we see to be transformative for young people. It’s about helping them see the value of a growth mindset when dealing with adversity and failure. This becomes a tool they can carry inside them to any challenge. 

How do we build resilience? 

Part of this process is to see the concept of FAIL as simply a First Attempt In Learning. Try it for yourself. Here is an exercise you can do with a partner (perhaps a friend or family member, or by yourself): 

  1. Think of a personal story about a time you made a mistake or failed at something in your life. Describe how it felt, what you thought, and share any details you feel comfortable sharing. 
  2. Invite your partner to offer insight into what you might have learned from that instance. Share from your own perspective what you learned from that mistake or failure. Highlight the ways that the mistake or failure really wasn’t a failure at all. 
  3. Switch roles and ask your partner to do the same. 
  4. Finally, reflect on how mistakes can help you discover inner strength. 

Failure is a necessary component of success, not the opposite of it. So in the face of failure, stop and look at it differently. See what you can learn and find the ways in which it helps you to build yourself even stronger for the next challenge.

Kylie Porter Chooses Gratitude Despite Life’s Challenges

Kylie Porter (right) alongside fellow First Tee – Canton participant, Ava Kemp.

If you’ve ever met Kylie Porter from First Tee – Canton you would never know all that she has overcome. Kylie has been a fighter since the day she was born. As a newborn, Kylie was transported to the Akron Children’s Hospital NICU as a 4-pound twin. Her parents had a priest called to the hospital to give Kylie her last rights, as they were told she wouldn’t survive. And if by some miracle she was to survive, she would never walk and would experience cognitive delays.

Kylie beat the odds.

Despite the doctor’s diagnosis, she has become a remarkable, intelligent young lady who is grateful to play her favorite sport…golf. Kylie has been a part of First Tee – Canton for more than seven years, where she is known for her amazing smile, positive attitude and hard work. Her parents truly thought they would never see the day and credit First Tee for not only teaching Kylie how to play the game of golf but providing a space where she could develop her character and values such as honesty, respect and acceptance.

“First Tee is more than just learning how to golf. At First Tee – Canton, I learned how important core values are to use everywhere. Not just in the sport of golf, but also in utilizing the values to help guide me in my everyday life. My favorite value is perseverance. In order to pursue your goals in life, you have to persevere and work hard towards your goals.”

Kylie has certainly made her mark at First Tee – Canton.

In 2019, the chapter honored Kylie with their first ever “Bill Hayes Perseverance Award.” In an effort to honor Mr. Hayes, a former volunteer who continued to serve despite his health issues, the award was created to recognize participants that also persevere in life. They believed that Kylie was a perfect fit to receive the first award.

Kylie recognizes how blessed she is and shares her story to advocate for other kids dealing with challenges in their life. Now 14 years old, Kylie has been diagnosed with Stickler syndrome, which contributes to severe hearing loss. However, she doesn’t let this stop her. Kylie uses her platform as a means to motivate young people and encourage them to find confidence despite their hearing loss. She uses social media to spread this message and share her story. Because of her efforts, Kylie was recently honored as a HearStrong Champion through the HearStrong Foundation.

She wants to inspire kids and teens with hearing loss and one day be an audiologist to help others like herself.

Kylie, you inspire us to learn and grow from our challenges.

In this season of thankfulness, we are grateful for our donors and supporters who help lift up our mission so we can reach young people like Kylie. This holiday season, when you donate to a First Tee chapter, they’re eligible for matching dollars, up to $1 for every $2 you donate, thanks to a matching grant program from Charles R. Schwab.  Find a chapter to donate today and join our mission to empower young people to build their strength of character through golf.

4 Ways To Encourage Positive Thinking In Kids

We all deal with highs and lows in life. Even as kids, we experience a variety of emotions that have a direct impact on our choices, and the way we think about ourselves. A bad experience can result in negative thinking which can be detrimental to a young person’s self confidence and outlook on life. That’s why positive thinking is so powerful— not just for adults but kids as well. Maintaining a positive attitude can be challenging at times, but through practice and encouragement it becomes a skill that can shape and transform young lives.

Just as you exercise your swing before hitting the ball, it’s important to practice things that can promote positive thinking. Our minds are valuable tools, and maintaining a healthy and positive headspace can improve confidence and drive in all aspects of life.

Here are four ways that you can encourage positive thinking in your kids:

  1. Always Give Your Best Effort – Parents and mentors should encourage kids to give their best effort as often as possible. At First Tee, we believe that it is important to help kids show up to the challenge, and develop the resilience and inner strength needed to give their best effort on and off the golf course. If kids can give their best effort in all of their endeavors, they will be able to realize what they are truly capable of. This can directly improve their confidence, and help them develop a positive attitude about the world around them.
  1. Give Back To Your Community – Giving back to your community, or causes that you care about is another great way to maintain a positive mindset. Volunteering can help your family connect with others who hold similar values and beliefs. Even activities as simple as tutoring someone on the weekend, or pulling a neighbor’s weeds can have a tremendous effect on the community you live in. When kids can see that their actions can make a positive difference in the world, they will be more likely to feel positively about themselves, and their community.
  1. Practice Positive Self-Talk – Parents and mentors should show kids the importance of being gentle with themselves and others. A great way to help kids develop this skill is to tell them to talk to themselves as if they are talking to their best friend. If they wouldn’t say something mean to their friend or loved one, they shouldn’t say it to themselves. The way we think directly impacts our behavior and feelings about the world. If kids can think positively about themselves, they will likely feel the same way about the world around them.
  1. Take Ownership & Responsibility For Your Actions – Helping kids realize they have control over the outcomes of the challenges they face can help build confidence and reduce overall anxiety. Reducing anxiety and practicing problem-solving skills at a young age can have a huge effect on how their mindset develops through the rest of their lives. Raising confident kids is one of the best ways to help encourage positive thinking.

First Tee guides kids and teens to strengthen what’s inside them and put it into action. It’s a priority for us to show young people the value of caring for their social and emotional wellness. So when they step up to the next shot, math test, or presentation they have the strength to move forward, aim further, and finish stronger than the last time.

If you are interested in getting your child involved with First Tee, you can learn more and sign up today.

Taking on Challenges

Experiences can be some of our greatest teachers, and there are a variety of learning opportunities ahead for parents and students alike. While some will be fun and exciting, others may be challenging or difficult to navigate. Without practice or understanding, some of these new experiences are likely to leave students feeling overwhelmed and stressed. However, if you can help your student choose to see every experience as one that can build character, they’ll always come out better equipped for whatever comes next.

We believe in developing experiences that are just as fun as they are meaningful. As a result, our students are empowered by new challenges which result in continuous personal growth and essential character development.

Going back to school is the perfect opportunity to practice growing through challenges. To help parents and students navigate their back-to-school transition, we’ve developed a few tips to help them get ready.

  • Use STAR
    • S stands for STOP and take a deep breath.
    • T stands for THINK of all your choices.
    • A stands for ANTICIPATE what could happen (good or bad) as a result of your choice.
    • R stands for RESPOND by selecting the best choice for what to do.
  • Identify Challenges and Support
    • Ask your child to identify challenges for specific subjects and social interaction
    • Work with them to create a list of people they can lean on for support

Each of these steps can plant seeds of mindfulness as students go through everyday life. Taken directly from our First Tee programs, where we prepare kids to face new experiences by helping them to identify their support team, reflect on their opportunities, and strengthen what they bring to everything they do. We define strength of character as the self-confidence to show up to the challenge, the resilience to keep going when you fail, and the inner strength to do the right thing even when it’s the hard thing to do. It’s what will allow your child to walk away from failure determined, not defeated.

With our over 20 years of experience, we’ll continue developing experiences that build character to empower kids and teens through a lifetime of new challenges and continuous personal growth. This way your kids will never face a challenge they can’t go through or grow through. To learn more about getting your child involved with First Tee, you can find a chapter near you today!

The Impact Of Having A Good Mentor

Having someone that you can look up to and go to for support is one the most important things a kid can have. Mentors give youth (and even adults) the confidence they need to confront challenges and come up with their own solutions. They provide a safe place for kids and teens to be themselves and have fun, while also learning valuable life skills.  

A great mentor has many traits— they can be a role model, cheerleader, policy enforcer, advocate, and friend to the students they work with. First Tee mentors have a sincere desire to be involved with their students, and treat them with respect. They practice active listening skills and empathy, while also seeking solutions and opportunities for those they work with. 

We celebrate each of our coaches, and recognize them for the unique role they play in young lives. In fact, research shows that First Tee participants think of their coaches as more than just teachers and counselors, but real mentors who have made a positive difference in their lives. 

Here are four ways a mentor impacts their mentees that were inspired and created by what our junior golfers have to say about their coaches:

1. Mentors show that you can never stop learning

They are always growing and showcasing that to their mentees who can feel inspired by how they adapt to life’s challenges.

“I constantly heard that sport emulates life, and life emulates sports. I didn’t understand this concept until I started the First Tee program. Through this sport, I learned accountability and responsibility for my actions and how to respond to adversity.  These lessons have affected my thinking about the impact I have on those around me and how important it is for me to strive to be my best self.”  – Quincy Crawford, participant, 2021 Scholar

2. Mentors help inspire students to be game-changers

Not just for themselves, but in their everyday lives and especially with their peers.

“Having an amazing mentor through the First Tee who I have developed a strong relationship with has inspired me to help others find mentors that can help them through their education and career.”Remi Shendell, participant, First Tee Scholar

3. Mentors teach the importance of active listening

Not only do they offer support, but they show how valuable it can be to listen to someone in both good and bad times.

“Coach Mary Beth McGirr has been a major influence in my life, helping me with golf and with learning critical life skills that will aid me throughout my life. She took me under her wing and has been a shining example for me to follow. Additionally, as a woman, she has been an amazing mentor and example of a strong, confident female for me to look up to and admire. Coach Mary Beth has been one of my biggest fans and encourages me to do my best. She takes time to talk about my golf, life, family and personal struggles. She has been an excellent example of a strong leader and businesswoman who consistently gives back to the game and the community.” –  Alyssa Caraballo, The First Tee of Roanoke Valley

4. Mentors guide students to lead by example

It’s easy to tell someone what to do, but more impactful to give students the tools and examples they need to come to their own solutions.

“Coach Donnie Caldwell, PGA has given me great advice with my golf but more importantly, in my life. He has told me ‘make choices today that you’ll be proud of tomorrow.’ I used to just make choices that seemed the easiest or most convenient. But now I take time to think about those big decisions and how my choices may also affect others. Without him and his advice, I don’t know where I would be with my life, and that’s scary. He has made me a better person and he has shown me how to make the most of my life.” – Braxton Caldwell, First Tee of Pine Mountain

As you can see, the impact of a great mentor is one of our strongest tools in life. Our mentors work to guarantee students that there is someone who cares about them and who will assure them they are not alone in dealing with challenges. Offered at more than 1,200 locations, our program was developed by experts in the field of positive youth development and is delivered by trained coaches, or as our participants say— mentors! 

Check with your local chapter about how you can become a mentor to a junior golfer in your community.