A Generational Reset: Our Youth Shine Through Times of Darkness

By Jasmin Cunningham and Andrew J. Masterson We as an organization have spent the last several days taking in the news and unfolding events happening around the country. It is truly disturbing and heartbreaking. Although disheartened, we are proud to work for an organization that is actively discussing how we can play a role in changing social injustices and better support our youth. First Tee was created two decades ago to give kids access to golf who may have never had an interest or ability, and provide a space that makes them feel comfortable and accepted within their surroundings. In the process, they began learning life skills and building their inner-strength, confidence and resilience. The words of our CEO, Greg McLaughlin, were a reminder of this. – “Our character is a compass, and it is the source of our words, thoughts and actions. Strong character stands against injustice.” We are working on becoming more encouraging and uplifting during this time, but first and foremost, the best thing we can do right now is listen. When societal change is needed, it is best to look to the stewards of our future, our participants and alumni. These young people are aware of the injustices and inequalities within our society. They refuse to turn a blind eye. They use their voices, platforms, lived experiences and actions to facilitate change, stand with one another and loudly and unapologetically condemn acts of racism and social injustice in our nation. We challenged our youth to provide one word that describes their character and guiding light during this time of darkness. By listening to their perspective, we can all learn to examine our own conscience and open our minds and hearts to those around us.

Rayshon J. Payton | Alumnus, First Tee – Metropolitan Oklahoma City  

Legislative Director at U.S. House of Representatives – Kendra Horn Confident “We are at a pivotal point in our nation where difficult and uncomfortable conversations regarding the experiences of so many of our fellow Americans is the only pathway forward. I am confident as we work to form a more perfect union we will emerge stronger, more unified than ever, with our compass needle pointed solidly towards compassion, equality and justice for those hurting so much. Racism and hate have no place in our society.”  

Najae Butler | Alumna, First Tee – Metro Atlanta

Junior at Fairleigh Dickinson University Perseverance “Perseverance has always been an important part of my character and it still is today. As an African American female, I’ve come across numerous issues within my life based upon my race and gender, but I did not let that stop me from achieving my goals of becoming a Division I athlete and starting my own photography business. Having those instances in my life has helped me during this challenging time because it taught me to keep fighting and believing in what’s important to me. I have joined a leadership group at my university, Fairleigh Dickinson University, to enlighten the community of what’s occurring and proposing solutions. Adversity will occur for many people, but it’s how you respond that’s important. Do not be discouraged because you may have failed at something or it has not gone the way you planned, but be motivated and have the drive to accomplish what you want; and that goes for anything in life.”

Shahbaz Hashmi | Alumnus, First Tee – Greater San Antonio

Sophomore at the University of Indiana Presence “There are times where humanity finds itself at a crossroads. An ultimatum. A fork in the road. As a nation, we have inched closer and closer to a tipping point for generations, and our collective pain over the past few days has seemingly brought us to that threshold. As young people, and as leaders, we have a unique opportunity to seize this moment and to be agents of change – change that will transcend generations. Make your presence felt in this world in order to be the change you wish to see. Seek solace in your presence. Maintain presence of mind, but more importantly, maintain presence of heart. Live your life through a lens of respect and integrity. Be what you want this world to be, and the world will follow suit.”

Ben Spitz | Alumnus, First Tee – Western New York

Sophomore at California University of Pennsylvania Family “The unrest across our nation has more than anything reminded me of the importance of family. I grew up with a black sister and a paralyzed father, but it took me years to realize that people saw our family as different. It never mattered to me and my siblings whether my dad was able-bodied or not; we loved him without batting an eye. The same went for my adopted sister. Family represents love, respect and support regardless of our skin color or what we look like. One of us gets hurt and we all have their back. As a white male, I can’t pretend to understand what black Americans go through on a daily basis, but I do stand with you. As family. Today, our family needs us all more than ever.”

Savannah Mansueti | Alumna, First Tee – Palm Beaches

Freshman at the University of Florida Resilient “Social injustice and systemic racism have been issues in America since the beginning. People of color have been subjected to this treatment for too long, and change is long overdue. I chose “resilient” as my word to not only describe me but also the brave protestors who are fighting for equality. To me, giving up is not an option. And for a lot of these protestors, giving up means losing their life or complying with the never-ending cycle of violence. The powerful videos and photos coming out of the protests show the resilience of the black community. Our generation is the generation of change. If you would like to help, Donate! Sign Petitions! Educate Yourselves! Educate Others! WE WILL BE THE GENERATIONAL RESET!”

Mombo Ngu | Alumna, First Tee – North Florida

Freshman at the University of Florida Resilient “I strongly believe that I must be resilient during times like this in our country. Being resilient does not mean I am ignorant or indifferent to the news going on. Resilient means I am able to keep standing and pushing forward no matter the situation. I will do whatever I can, to be an impact wherever I can, even when I am looked down by others and face opposition. Lives have been lost and my heart breaks every time, especially for the families that have lost a son, daughter, father or mother. No matter what stands before me, my need to be resilient reminds me that I must push for change and have my voice heard. I can breathe and I am alive.”    

Logan Lurie | Alumna, First Tee – Howard County

Rising freshman at the University of Maryland Empathy “One word that I would use to describe my character and has also guided me during this time of darkness is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand the experiences and feelings of another person without having experienced them in your own life. I know I will never be able to understand what it feels like to be judged by the color of my skin, but I can help make a difference by listening to and truly hearing the experiences of others who fight racism every day of their lives. Through these tough times, I have been reminded of the importance of reaching out to my friends who are hurting to simply hear their feelings as well as educating myself about the racial inequalities that are present in our country. It can be difficult to know the differences that we as individuals can make in regards to such a widespread issue, but being empathetic towards others is the best way to do my part. I believe that if every person is kinder and more empathetic to those around them, the world will become a better place.”

Alexa Vela | First Tee – Greater Houston

Rising Junior at Pearland High School Hope “Be the change you wish to see in the world,’ a phrase held by countless individuals who have had a positive impact on the world around us and more than ever contains a great amount of relevance. Even in such trying times, I have clung onto the power of hope as a result of the knowledge that many, including myself, are willing to dedicate themselves to the well-being of others. In addition to this, I recognize how fortunate I have been able to grow up within an organization as First Tee that is founded upon the significance of celebrating diversity. As a result, throughout my life I have been given the opportunity to learn as well as lead alongside many people from varying backgrounds whether racial, religious or cultural in which many have been influential in shaping who I am. This has encouraged me to advocate for the justice of my African American, Latino, Asian as well as many more of my peers through the ways in which I choose to live and use my voice within my school, community and chapter. During recent events, I have seen the ways in which many young people throughout the country are beginning to do the same by becoming accepting of others as well as promoting the exchange of thoughts, beliefs and opinions regardless of social, economic or political status. This allowed me to be hopeful for the future leaders within my school, community as well as the nation who are choosing to be the change in a time where it is easy to feel helpless. All of which have led me to a single conclusion: We must choose to love and not hate for what is, but hope for what could be.”

Our Character Is A Compass

Statement from First Tee CEO Greg McLaughlin on the Social Injustice Surrounding George Floyd’s Death.

“Society bears the marks of prejudice and injustice, even today. The events over the last week are disturbing and heartbreaking on so many levels. I wish we could shield today’s young people from it, and yet, it’s all around them. As a community of caring adults who come together in support of the next generation, it’s our responsibility to ensure kids build the confidence to find their voice, their footing, and stand up for what is right, even when it’s hard. Our character is a compass, and it is the source of our words, thoughts and actions. Strong character stands against injustice. As we grieve the events happening around us, we have to lead the next generation to higher ground.” – Greg McLaughlin, CEO, First Tee

How Positivity Can Help Us Persevere in Times of Uncertainty

By Sara Wright, Guest blogger, PGA TOUR Positivity and perseverance have always been revered characteristics. This seems true now more than ever before. For most, regular day-to-day routines were flipped completely upside down during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it was a rapid change to the norm. As the global health crisis took shape, most children saw their schools closed and their sports and after-school activities canceled. This inevitably included First Tee’s in-person programs, which were suspended for the unforeseeable future. Many parents created a virtual learning environment for their children at home. While the lucky ones worked remotely, many faced layoffs as businesses closed their doors and unemployment rates skyrocketed. Our work-life balance shifted and even regular interactions with family and friends changed drastically almost overnight. While some states begin to slowly reopen, the future is still unclear. Around the world, people and businesses are doing their part: helping others, spreading good news and simply reassuring each other with signs or messages of positivity that we WILL get through this. We will persevere. Examples of golfers using perseverance and positivity are also plentiful, but the name that sticks out to us is one that we’ve heard frequently over the past year.
Photo courtesy of the PGA TOUR
She is not a professional golfer (at least not yet), but Amy Bockerstette, along with her iconic self-assurance and her “I got this” mentality, is a player who knows first-hand what it takes to persevere against all odds. If you are one of the few who have not heard of ‘Amazing Amy’ yet, don’t worry. We got you. Watch this video released by the PGA TOUR about Amy and her viral moment with Gary Woodland in 2019 on the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. So, what can we learn from Amy? Well, her story is one that truly shows just how powerful positive attitude and self-talk can be. “Amy’s energy, her love, her attitude was so contagious,” four-time PGA TOUR winner Woodland said. “I need more of that, and I think the world needs more of that. Her positive self-talk is stuff I’m still using to this day.” Woodland credited Amy’s positivity and perseverance as a driving force to his U.S. Open victory that came a few months after he met her. So if it works for Gary and Amy, it can work for all of us.

Positive self-talk is an essential tool in perseverance.

Positive self-talk helps boost your confidence. This seems like a no-brainer, but studies have shown that positive self-talk is among the most efficient and effective means of increasing a person’s self-confidence. Many psychologists believe confidence is one of the primary prerequisites to personal and professional success. In addition, it helps eliminates stress. According to the American Heart Association, positive self-talk can aid in controlling stress. As a result, it makes you feel calmer and less anxious, reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and other physical ailments brought on by stress. How can you practice positive self-talk?
  • Create a positive outcome in your head: Imagine a goal and how you will accomplish it. Once you keep this intent in mind, it becomes easier for you to accomplish and set out steps to achieve it.
  • Build on your accomplishments: This can be done in two parts. First, remember your previous accomplishments. These memories will make you feel good about yourself. Then, praise yourself when you achieve your new goals.
  • Repeated affirmations: Focus on regularly saying optimistic statements about yourself, your present endeavors or what goals you intend to accomplish. By repeating these affirmations, a person has a higher chance of recalling positive thoughts instead of negative ones.
One of the goals of First Tee is to better equip our children for whatever comes their way. With that in mind, we have provided a vision board activity to complete with your child at home. A vision board is a physical representation of a goal or set of goals that you’re aiming to achieve. It is a collage of items that are meant to kick start their imagination and help visualize those goals with words of positivity and affirmation. Check out the project linked here on our new Links to Learning website. With positive self-talk, we CAN persevere even through the most uncertain and trying of times. Remember, you’ve got this. (Now, just repeat that to yourself as often as it takes!)

A Class to Remember

Our graduating high school seniors will soon venture off to the next chapter of their lives as they transition from participants to alumni and start their collegiate careers. They’ve put in the hard work, dedication and have persevered to get to this point. This is a major milestone and while graduation may look a little different this year, this is a moment in time to pause and be proud of all they have accomplished so far. To celebrate the 2020 graduating class, we have put together a list of 20 First Tee seniors to celebrate their achievements.

RISHI AJJARAPU, FIRST TEE OF SILICON VALLEY

  • College: Rutgers University, New Brunswick
  • Major: Double Major in Business Analytics and Information Technology & Finance
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? I’m extremely proud of the way that our FBLA team did at the 2019 California FBLA States Competition. The 2019 California FBLA States took place in late March however, our work started in August. The steps included building a committee, building a mission statement, and then executing a project that we would later present.
 

Caleb Ashley, First Tee of Pine Mountain

  • College: Morehead State University
  • Major: Biomedical Sciences (Pre-Med Track)
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Being named Valedictorian of my high school and being selected to participate in the 2019 PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach.
 

Izabelle Ballin, First Tee of Greater Houston

  • College: San Jacinto College
  • Major: Undecided
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Being able to say I competed in the Junior Olympics for track and field.
 

Stephen Dai, First Tee of Greater Seattle

  • College: Carnegie Mellon University
  • Major: Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Getting top-5 in an AJGA event! Definitely marked a time I was at the top of my game.
 

Anthony Ford III, First Tee of Metro Atlanta

  • College: Carolina A&T
  • Major: Undecided
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Winning the State Championship in 2019
 

Lukas Freelove, First Tee of Salina

  • College: Kansas State University
  • Major: Landscape Architecture
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Working hard in school. I’m eager to see those efforts pay off in college.
 

Vivian Guite, First Tee of Naples/Collier

  • College: University of South Florida
  • Major: Undecided
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? I’m proud to have represented First Tee of Naples/Collier at the PURE Insurance Championship and of becoming a well-rounded individual and role model for others.
 

Ralph Kho, First Tee of Silicon Valley

  • College: University of Dallas
  • Major: Business
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Setting and following goals, especially making the varsity golf team as a freshman.
 

Ashley Knepshield, First Tee of Greater Sacramento

  • College: Santa Monica College
  • Major: Undecided
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Being awarded my chapter’s Core Value Award in 2017.
 

Kayli Lucas, First Tee of Tennessee

  • College: University of Alabama
  • Major: Biology
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Being accepted into four First Tee national opportunities in a single academic year.
 

Logan Lurie, First Tee of Howard County

  • College: University of Maryland, College Park
  • Major: International Business Major; hoping to double-major in Economics
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Winning the Coca-Cola America’s Future Scholarship. Being selected for this scholarship proved how much I have grown with First Tee!
 

Isabel Matos, First Tee of North Florida

  • College: Southern Wesleyan University
  • Major: Communications with a concentration in Media Production
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Maintaining a 4.0 GPA and helping our high school golf team to place top-10 in states for three years.
 

Jacob Allen McGill, First Tee of Greater Trenton

  • College: Penn State Brandywine
  • Major: Undecided
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? I represented the First Tee of Greater Trenton in the 2015 Northeast Regional Championship in Pittsburgh where I won honors for the overall best score for the boys.
 

Mika Miyata, First Tee of Phoenix

  • College: University of Nebraska Omaha
  • Major: Undecided
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Getting a scholarship to play Division I collegiate golf.
 

Austin Murphy, First Tee of Green Valley Ranch

  • College: Prairie View A&M University
  • Major: Business Administration, Management and Operations
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Some accomplishments that I am proud of include being valedictorian for my middle school graduating class, earning scholarships, graduating high school and participating in varsity sports. But I believe that being able to represent my middle school as an Aurora Scholar in 2016 was probably my proudest accomplishment.
 

Lauren Parayno, First Tee of Fresno

  • College: Dominican University of California
  • Major: Nursing
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Winning the Areas Tournament with a 68 as a freshman

Hailey Pendleton, First Tee of Greater Charlotte

  • College: University of North Carolina at Asheville
  • Major: Biology
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Getting a scholarship to play Division I College Golf. Playing collegiate golf was always one of my biggest dreams and it proves to me that hard work pays off.
 

Owen Porter, First Tee of Greater Washington, D.C.

  • College: Centre College
  • Major: Economics
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Achieving Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.
 

Shani Waite, First Tee of Los Angeles

  • College: Prairie View A&M University
  • Major: Undecided
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Participating in the 2019 PURE Insurance Championship.
 

Taleah Washington, First Tee of Fort Worth

  • College: Prairie View A&M University
  • Major: Computer Engineering
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? Being nominated for the Texas UIL District 7-6A All-State Team with just four years of golf experience.

Having Fun and Staying Positive are Key to Taking on New Experiences

Kids and teens take on new experiences every day – at school, at home and during extra-curricular activities – it’s part of growing up. As youth expand their horizons and experience new things, some lessons will come easy and others will be hard. It’s how they react that matters. The impact of COVID-19 has introduced us all to new circumstances and experiences. Approaching them with the right mindset is key. Here are three tips to inspire you:

Be Patient

Patience means staying calm while you wait, success comes with practice and experience. Patience means giving yourself lots of chances to succeed by trying again and again.

Be Positive

Enjoy what you are doing regardless of the outcome. A positive attitude will not only make you feel better, it will help you DO better. When situations get difficult, rather than get upset, focus on what went right. Then, figure out what you could do better next time. If you have a good attitude and stay positive, it will help you enjoy what you are doing.

Ask for Help

It’s OK to ask for help; it’s how you learn. You should always feel comfortable asking  your teachers, coaches and friends for help. Asking for help from others is a much better option than struggling alone. Any challenges you face can be made easier if you tackle them together. If you can follow these practices these tips, any new experience can turn into a positive one.

Character Building Programs for Kids

Empowering kids and teens through a lifetime of new experiences is at the heart of First Tee. With programs in all 50 states and select international locations, First Tee provides active learning experiences for youth that help build their inner strength, self-confidence and resilience. First Tee impacts more than 3.6 million youth each year, helping to strengthen their character through the game of golf.

Meet the Winners of the Wells Fargo Succeeding Together Contest

Empowering kids through a lifetime of new challenges and continuous personal growth is at the heart of First Tee. One of our participant opportunities, the Wells Fargo Succeeding Together Contest, shines a light on a few extraordinary participants and their personal journeys to become better students, citizens and golfers in an effort to prepare for life. These top four winners have proven in their writing and through their actions that leadership is always possible, and if we build a community, it is always possible to succeed together.

Grand Prize Winner: Raymond Jin, First Tee of Greater Trenton

Raymond first became involved with First Tee through his mother’s friend. Nervous and a bit shy, Raymond was naturally reluctant. But it turned out to be one of the best decisions he’s ever made. “As I progressed through the program, First Tee completely changed me as a person. Before, I was a shy little boy hiding behind my parents’ back. Now, I’m able to interact and form lasting relationships with people from all walks of life. I now embrace unconventionality and uncertainty and thrive in new and unfamiliar situations. Because of First Tee, I am able to make a difference in the lives of young people and those in my community. I am passionate about working with people and mentoring.” Involved with First Tee of Greater Trenton for six years, Raymond now serves as a junior coach mentoring young kids in the program. Outside his time with First Tee, he also has a budding career as an amateur musician. Competing as a classically trained violinist, Raymond was a competitor on China’s Got Talent, and finished second in the junior division. He also is a concertmaster and member of the All-State Orchestra. He has had internships with New Jersey Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson is also a Scholastic Gold and Silver Key in photography. He’s currently a junior in high school and his immediate goals include getting into college majoring in managerial business or financial engineering, with the goal of opening up his own business to serve underserved communities through professional development initiatives. He values the foundations of mentorship provided to him at First Tee of Greater Trenton and the meaning it has brought to his life. “I now understand the value of discovering talent in unorthodox places. Today, my students are my chief source of inspiration and constant, tireless improvement as a student, athlete, artist, musician, leader, mentor and citizen in the 21st Century. My students’ struggles are my test of strength, and their willingness to learn and ceaseless energy are the only compensation I need for a lifetime of public service.” Read Raymond’s essay that earned him a spot in the Wells Fargo Pro-am.

Jalyn Robinson, First Tee of Greater Sacramento (First Prize Winner)

Jalyn didn’t start seriously thinking about golf until sixth grade. It was then that she learned about the inviting nature of First Tee. “My mom and I were drawn to First Tee because you didn’t have to have a history with golf to be part of the program; plus, it wasn’t just about the technicalities of the sport. We participated in fun challenges, games and events. I had the chance to make amazing friendships.” As Jalyn has progressed through the program, she steadily transitioned to a leader in the program and credits First Tee with giving her the opportunity to create meaningful, personal friendships that have withstood the test of time. Jalyn dreams of playing collegiate golf, but certainly understands the challenges that can bring. She has learned to embrace those difficult challenges. “First Tee taught me to embrace failures because they are going to happen. How you choose to deal with that failure is what will truly impact you. First Tee not only taught me how to embrace my failures on the course, but also how to analyze, learn and move on from tough experiences off the course.” Jalyn also credits her mother with the encouragement that has led her to success. “She has always given me a listening ear, caring heart and comfortable shoulder to cry on when things are difficult for me to handle. Because of her, my passion to be the change I want to see becomes vivid each day.”

Kayli Lucas, First Tee of Tennessee (First Prize Winner)

Kayli was first introduced to First Tee from a church friend in sixth grade. Before entering First Tee, Kayli was introverted and says she had low self-esteem. As she progressed through the life skills and golf curriculum, she felt her demeanor change. “I wanted to be adventurous and try new opportunities, but my confidence did not match my ambitions… I had finally found a place to grow and express my interests. The camaraderie among participants and coaches is unparalleled at First Tee. As I began to mature and find myself as a person, I was supported and guided by those around me, and simultaneously, I was able to do the same for others.” Gaining self-confidence changed Kayli’s life. “I initially did not pass ‘Par’ after my first time attending the course, but the process of retaking and passing ‘Par’ taught me that a lack of confidence was my only limitation – not the opinion of others. After this pivotal event in my life, I began to flourish and break out of my shell in all aspects. As a student, I embraced my unique qualities and began to excel in not only the classroom, but also in social settings. I began to confidently express myself and develop friendships with everyone I met. On the golf course, my game entered an entirely new level. My newfound confidence and work ethic advanced me to enter the ACE Program at the start of my freshman year of high school.” Kayli played on the varsity golf team throughout her high school career, leading them to the regional tournament for the first time in the school’s history. She will attend the University of Alabama in the fall, majoring in biology. Though she doesn’t yet know her long-term career goals, Kayli hopes to continue her journey with First Tee by turning to her peers and mentors for counsel when faced with challenging decisions.

Maya Hunter, First Tee of Benton Harbor (First Prize Winner)

Maya began her First Tee journey at a very young age alongside her brother. Their local chapter had recently opened a location in their area. Even though Maya had never played golf before, her mother signed her up for a summer program. That summer program quickly turned into something more as she progressed through the program, falling in love with golf and the life lessons learned through First Tee. “The core values and everything else I learned positively impacted my life in many ways. Many of the lessons were easy to take into everyday life, like a simple confident handshake or earning and giving the respect we all deserve.” Maya recalls a time in her golf career where honesty was more important than winning. “Honesty is a true judge of character. If I can keep a reputation of honesty on the course and in life, which is quite hard sometimes, I believe I will be a step ahead of everyone at my level. I may not be physically better, but I am willing to make a hard decision to stay true to my moral code of honesty.” Maya will be entering her senior year of high school this fall. She hopes to win regionals and a state title and earn a full scholarship through a caddy program to a top university.
These four winners will attend the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship. As the Grand Prize Winner, Raymond will experience the thrill of playing golf with the PGA TOUR professional of his choice during the tournament’s pro-am. Thank you, Wells Fargo for your longstanding partnership and support of First Tee. Wells Fargo has renewed their commitment for the next five years to support First Tee’s youth development program. Thank you to all applicants, and congratulations to all finalists!

PGA TOUR Links to Learning: online educational resource for parents

First Tee partners with PGA TOUR to provide fun, creative ways to support kids and families at home.

The recent pandemic has led to schools closing around the world, impacting millions of students nationwide and creating an increased demand for free online home-schooling resources. We’ve partnered with the PGA TOUR to pull together their family-friendly educational content and paired it with our character-building lessons to launch Links to Learning for parents, teachers and students. From Art and Math to Science and Fitness with a little creativity golf can be applied to just about any subject. “First Tee has been inspiring young people to engage with their personal development and growth for more than 20-years, and while this crisis is changing how kids learn, it’s incredible to see how adaptable and innovative families are during this time,” said Greg McLaughlin, CEO of First Tee. We are excited to partner with the PGA TOUR in launching Links to Learning and providing countless kids and families across the country with much needed resources at this critical time.” Empowering kids and teens to realize their dreams and achieve their goals is at the heart of First Tee. Through programs delivered in all 50 states and select international locations, we provide active learning experiences for youth that build their inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience. We impact more than 3.6 million youth each year, helping to build their strength of character through the game of golf.

Share Your Work

We’d love to see your completed lessons. Share them with us here.

Four Steps to Prepare our Youth for Challenging Situations

In a world where social pressures are always on, where calm and confidence are hard to access, and where perseverance is a required superpower every day, our kids are growing in new environments that are demanding more from them, and therefore more from us. In these particularly difficult times, it is important as parents, coaches and educators that we encourage our kids and teens to talk through any concerns, fears and anxieties they may be feeling, as we strive to inspire them to face these challenges head-on.

Providing experiences that are just as fun as they are meaningful

Our caring coaches empower kids so they feel excited to grow, safe to fail, and better equipped for whatever comes their way next. Through fun and meaningful programs, our coaches introduce participants to STAR:

STOP and take a deep breath.

When you face a challenge in life, the first step in deciding how to overcome it is to STOP what you are doing or what you are getting ready to do. This allows you to pause and gives your mind a break.

THINK of all your choices.

The next step in good decision-making is to THINK of your choices. What are some of the choices you have in this situation? Take time to think of as many choices as possible.

ANTICIPATE what could happen.

The third step is to ANTICIPATE the consequences (good or bad) of each choice. When you anticipate the consequences of each choice, think how the choice will affect your ability to reach your goals.

RESPOND by selecting the best choice.

After you have identified all your choices and you have anticipated the consequences of each choice, the final step is to RESPOND by picking the best choice. What makes something the best choice? The best choice is the one that helps you get to your goal. What one person considers the best choice may differ from what another thinks is best. Empowering kids and teens through a lifetime of new challenges is at the heart of First Tee. With programs in all 50 states and select international locations, First Tee provides active learning experiences for youth that help build their inner strength, self-confidence and resilience. First Tee impacts more than 3.4 million youth each year, helping to strengthen their character through the game of golf.

Continuous Learning Never Looked So Fun

Top 5 First Tee Chapter Activities Amidst COVID-19

Like the rest of the world, we’re adjusting to our “new normal” and how we keep our participants engaged during this time of social distancing. Our chapters have stepped up to the challenge to provide fun and exciting digital activities to keep kids moving and empowered to take on whatever challenges come their way. We invite you and your family to join us in these character-building activities that can be done wherever you are! You can find these posts and many more on our First Tee social channels. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more information.

First Tee of Greater Philadelphia

First Tee of Greater Philadelphia is offering virtual classes taught by their experienced coaches.

First Tee of Greater Charlotte

First Tee of Greater Charlotte is offering daily programming that includes special guests ranging from professional golfers to participants.

First Tee of the Triangle

First Tee of the Triangle is featuring activities and ideas – like healthy habits – that incorporate the entire family!

First Tee of Cleveland

First Tee of Cleveland has added cooking classes to their social media, including Coach Brian and his special guest Rylee who participate in the “Fit to a Tee Culinary Class” together.

First Tee of Greater Knoxville

First Tee of Greater Knoxville is promoting the opportunity for participants in the area to rent out equipment for free so that they can practice at home. These times can be challenging, but know that we are all in this together and we will continue to serve as a resource to help your kids stay active, healthy and resilient.

Past, Present, Future: Success Knows No Gender

March is Women’s History Month – a time to celebrate the best and brightest leaders who have been and continue to be pioneers throughout the golf industry. These women have helped pave the way for future generations to play the game with confidence.

PAST: LPGA Founders

Photo Credit: LPGA.com The golf industry forever changed when 13 women came together with a dream of playing golf professionally. After the 1950 U.S. Open, in a time when golf was mainly focused on men, these women carved out their own pathway. Together, they created the Ladies Professional Golfers Association. Today, the LPGA has grown considerably and continues to provide an opportunity for women to follow their dreams and earn a living playing the game they love. As our First Tee participants continue to grow through our character-building program, our hope is that they can use golf as a platform to accomplish their dreams, just as these 13 courageous women did.

PRESENT: Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Dr. Condoleezza Rice has broken ground and knocked down barriers in her illustrious professional and philanthropic career. She was the first African-American woman to become Secretary of State, aiding the world in peace talks and international relations, and has devoted herself to education, serving at Stanford University in multiple roles since 1981. In 2012, Dr. Rice added another first when she became one of the first two female members admitted to Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters tournament. Now, given her platform and prominence, she uses her energy to give back. Dr. Rice is a tireless advocate for youth in the game of golf, and has played a large part in the promotion of Drive Chip & Putt as well as the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, both of which have provided opportunities and encouragement for First Tee participants to follow their dreams. Anne N. Walker, director of women’s golf at Stanford University, spoke highly of her service. “If you look back on Condi’s life journey, she has never been known to take the easy path,” Walker says. “She thrives on challenge and intellectual curiosity. In golf, she found a lifelong sport where she is continuously challenged and learning. That combination, along with her love of competition, sports and a healthy lifestyle make Dr. Rice and golf a perfect union.”

FUTURE: Noor Ahmed

 Noor Ahmed (left) at the PURE Insurance Championship with Mark McNulty Noor Ahmed is a pioneer of the future. From beginning as a participant at First Tee of Greater Sacramento, Noor learned the values of self-confidence, having goals and preparing herself for anything that comes her way. A Muslim American who has worn her hijab since childhood, Noor was once shy and reserved. She found a home of acceptance with First Tee, away from those who criticized her based on appearance or religion. “I learned while standing on the first tee box how to shake hands with my playing partners, look them in the eye, say my name loudly and clearly, and to tell them it was nice to meet them,” Noor said during an interview with Golf Digest. “I know that it sounds so silly, but that was a huge accomplishment for me. Coach Angie [Dixon, with First Tee of Greater Sacramento] noticed me – the shy, introverted girl in the corner that no one saw before – and through her small action, she told me that I was a part of a group and that I was wanted.” Noor is a First Tee scholar, and used her self-confidence during her speech at the First Tee Congressional Breakfast in 2017. She has continued her education, currently enrolled as a history major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was also named as part of the 2019 Academic All-Big Ten team. Noor’s story of growth, acceptance and ultimate triumph is one that encourages other participants, coaches and leaders to be the best versions of themselves and ultimately impact countless lives along the way. It is never too late to inspire the next generation of leaders or serve as a mentor to the kids and teens in your community. Join us as we empower the next generation to have the confidence to take on whatever challenges come their way.

Alumni Sightings: PGA Merchandise Show

We like to think of our First Tee alumni network as a big family. Last month, we had the opportunity to have a mini reunion where we reconnected with several alumni during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida hearing more about where their journeys have landed them. With 81% of teens saying First Tee contributed to their personal transformation, these young adults represent the many alumni across the country and globe who are using the life skills they learned in the program to live out their dreams.

Paloma Santiago, First Tee of Greater Trenton

Paloma grew up in the New Jersey area, participating with the First Tee of Greater Trenton. She has continued to serve within the golf industry. After graduating from Methodist University and becoming a certified PGA Golf Professional, Paloma began serving as a Head Golf Professional in the New Jersey PGA section. Since 2017, Paloma has been the President of a non-profit golf organization she started called Live Golf. This non-profit is dedicated to supporting the community by exposing the game of golf, its values and opportunities primarily to youth and military in the community.

     

Jasmin Cunningham, First Tee of Metro Atlanta

Jasmin hasn’t strayed far from her roots at First Tee of Metro Atlanta. A Professional Golf Management graduate from University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Jasmin is now a Training & Curriculum Coordinator at First Tee headquarters. During her visit at the PGA Merchandise Show, Jasmin spent her time networking with PGA WORKS fellows. She also attended the We Are Golf  Diversity Roundtable Discussion, taking a deeper dive into the world of golf for minorities. They held discussions about how the industry can improve, providing unique perspectives on the topic.

     

Gavin Hogan, First Tee of Fort Worth

During Gavin’s time at First Tee of Fort Worth, he was an extremely active member. Hogan earned his ACE certification, the highest level a participant can achieve with First Tee. He also competed in the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting the First Tee in 2018 alongside PGA TOUR Champions professional Todd Hamilton. Gavin is currently a freshman at New Mexico State University, studying in the PGA Golf Management program with hopes of learning more about the various paths that golf can provide.       Are you a First Tee alum? Join our First Tee Alumni Network and stay connected with participants and professionals from around the country.

First Tee Teens Reach for their Dreams and Inspire us Along the Way

So often, we are energized by the stories we hear from our participants and alumni. From incredible feats on the course to taking their learned life skills and putting them into practice in their everyday lives, we love to see the impact that First Tee is making on youth around the world. As part of Black History Month, we are featuring just a handful of teens who are paving their own path in their communities. Prepare to be inspired. Mombo Ngu, First Tee of North Florida alumnus Mombo was one of the three applicants selected for the 2019 John Deere Power for Good Scholarship in large part due to the powerful impact she is making in the North Florida community. She has spent countless hours volunteering as an after-school math tutor, helping to host events at her church and actively donating clothing to the less-fortunate through a local non-profit, Clothes Closet. On top of receiving the $5,000 scholarship, she spent a week at TPC Deere Run during the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill, and participated in fun events and even met PGA TOUR professional Matthew Wolff. “Throughout my life, I have faced difficulties that I believed I couldn’t overcome,” said Ngu. “First Tee has always been a key factor that has helped guide me through it all. [The coaches and mentors] have taught me that giving back to the community is crucial, and to be a power for good for at least one person makes everything worthwhile.” Mombo has since put her scholarship to good use. She now attends the University of Florida pursuing a degree in medicine in hopes of becoming a doctor – yet another way she plans to give back. She even won an essay contest at UF for her speech about an important moment in her life. Listen to Mombo’s speech. Marcellus Dillard, First Tee of Greater Chicago alumnus  Marcellus recently competed as an amateur at Torrey Pines for an event in conjunction with the PGA TOUR’s Farmers Insurance Open. The 27-hole tournament was contested on the North Course on the Saturday of the tournament. Marcellus was the only amateur to compete in the Advocates Professional Golf Association event. Beyond the course, Marcellus is currently a junior at Florida A&M University majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. A member of the golf team, he’s had continued success in his three years. Just last month he helped lead his team to victory at the BCGCA Legends Invite by capping off with an impressive 2-under 70 to close out the final round. Drew Charter School and Participants from First Tee of Metro Atlanta The Drew Charter School golf team made headlines last year when they became the first all-black high school team to win the Georgia state golf championship. All members of the team are also participants at the First Tee of Metro Atlanta, and two of the coaches, Head Coach Jeff Dunovant and Assistant Coach Nyre Williams, are actively involved at the chapter serving as Director of Golf Operations and Program Director. The team took the country by storm, garnering national attention by some prominent athletes. The team was celebrated by PGA TOUR professional Harold Varner III, who made a donation to the program. Calvin Ridley, NFL wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, arranged a party in the team’s honor. They were the talk of the town at this year’s TOUR Championship. Many of their participants are off doing great things. Solomon Dobbs is studying Computer Science at Morehouse College while competing on the golf team. Anthony “AJ” Ford played in the 2019 PURE Insurance Championship Impacting the First Tee, and the senior has recently signed for a full athletic scholarship to play at North Carolina A&T State University upon graduation. The team will look to make history – again – at this year’s state championship. “My First Tee coaches and mentors have taught me that winners are not only defined by their scores and finishes, but by what they do to enrich their own lives and the lives of others,” said Ford. “First Tee has been a blessing for youth like me who could have easily been lost without a wonderful organization to help shape their lives.” There are no limits to where First Tee can take you. If you have great stories about First Tee participants and alumni in your community, we would love to hear them. Please reach out to [email protected] to submit your impactful stories.