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.

Coach Dustin Marsh – 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.

Coach Dustin Marsh, First Tee – Central Carolina

What is your current role at First Tee, how long have you been in that role and what is the most rewarding part of your job?

Currently, I am a recognized First Tee Coach. I have been coaching with The First Tee since 2009.

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. As a coach, you’re both a mentor and leader to the participants in the program. What does that mean to you?

It means a great deal to me! Many people get to middle age and find themselves in a job or career that they did not foresee. They get caught up in making a living. They may or may not like what they do. I like what I do but, before I started with The First Tee I was not participating in my community as I thought I needed to. I was searching for something to fill a void in my being. When I was young, I was an education major but, life happened and I took an opportunity to work in computer technology. Now that I am coaching with The First Tee, I feel like I’m exercising the same passion I had when I was on a path to be an educator.

How important is it for participants to see diverse leaders like yourself and others coaching at the chapter?

It’s extremely important that our participants experience the program from a diverse range of leaders and with diverse peers. I think specifically about some of the kids I have coached over the years who have gone on to college and professional careers, and I know having diverse coaches was instrumental in not only attracting them to the program, but also keeping them engaged for the long run.  At the end of the day, it’s about making kids feel welcome and comfortable, and when a kid can see themselves in me or another black or brown coach, that increases the likelihood they will want to come back.

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

Many of my coaches made strong impressions on me for various reasons. Some of my teachers inspired me as well. However, I think the strongest voices in my life were those that exemplified and instilled the importance of decency toward others.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your life or career?

One thing I’m most proud of is my track record of community service, specifically through First Tee – Central Carolina.  I’ve been doing this for over 11 years.  It isn’t always convenient or easy in my schedule, but it has been worth it.  I’m proud that kids have called me a mentor even when I didn’t think I was, and that I’ve been able to help them figure out all how to deal with the hard things life has thrown at them.

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

A challenge that I have faced in my career is leading teams of people and how to get the best results possible.  What I’ve learned is that you have to know what motivates them and what their strengths and weaknesses are.  This takes time and building relationships.  Once you know these details, you can put people where they are going to be the most effective and the whole team benefits.  I’ve done the same thing in the First Tee classes I coach.  I try to learn as quickly as I can why a kid is there and what they are looking to get out of the experience.  Once I know this, I can adapt my coaching to best match their needs.  Like we are trained in the First Tee Coach Program, match the activity to the child and not the child to the activity.

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

I think we must continue to find ways to make golf inviting to a diverse group of people. There isn’t one way to bring more diversity to golf. We have to try every approach we can come up with. It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight. Golf used to be a sport that was available to only those with financial means and making it more inclusive is going to take time and perseverance. There is a lot of untapped talent that golf has yet to tap into. It ultimately comes down to building relationships in your community that are genuine and time tested.  The opportunities to be more diverse can be hard to initially see, but if your focus is on building relationships, the opportunities to engage with black and brown communities will become more apparent.  When it comes to this type of work, don’t worry about being the first one there, focus on being the last one standing.

What leadership advice or concept do you think is most important for your participants to know?

Focus on the process, not the outcome.

Angela “Coach Angel” Whorton, First Tee — Greater Akron

Coach Angel has been an educator for 15 years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Elementary Education from Hampton University, where she attended on a full NCAA Division I scholarship helping lead her team in March Madness. After graduation, Coach Angel traveled extensively and was invited to speak on diversity and educational practices. She began her teaching career in Turkey, teaching English as a Second Language before going back home, to Akron, Ohio where she is currently an educator at the Lebron James IPromise school. Coach Angel was introduced to First Tee 8 years ago when her son, John Ramon, joined the program. She joined in not long after and has been coaching at First Tee — Greater Akron for 7 years.  “I feel it is important to stay involved in the First Tee to offer the kids in my urban community the opportunity to play a sport that they may have not felt was in their realm of abilities.  When we begin working with these athletes we open a whole new world for them while developing their character through the Core Values to instill a solid foundation for success.  I also feel it is essential to have representation in the world of golf and being able to interact and develop friendships and perspectives with people in the golf community that may have otherwise never built a relationship with someone in the Black community such as myself.” Coach Angel is just one of the many inspirational coaches across our network and we invite you to learn more about her journey and thoughts on leadership in the video below.

The Power of Mentorship

If there are any silver linings to this pandemic, it’s been the coaches and mentors who have stepped up going above and beyond for our participants. The events of 2020 have reinforced the need for programs like First Tee that lift up, support and empower kids to stand strong and grow during challenging situations. The coaches and staff of First Tee programs across the nation have leaned on their creativity, flexibility and adaptive spirits to keep participants engaged and encouraged during a challenging year.

Often, we take for granted how truly invaluable these mentors are in the community with their consistent effort and support for the participants they lead. But we see our coaches putting in the long hours. It’s extra time on the putting green or staying late for one last lesson on the driving range. That time isn’t just about helping a kid improve their golf game. Our coaches are digging deeper, building trust and having meaningful conversations. Many times, those sessions together turn to discussions of dreams beyond the golf course – what the future could hold, current struggles or opportunities for personal growth.

Julia Hardy, a participant from First Tee — New Hampshire, knows firsthand the benefits of having a dedicated and caring First Tee coach. Coach Beth Flint has been a mentor to her for the last seven years and it’s changed her life.

Julia had always been an avid golf fan, and early on she would take lessons at her local driving range, but Julia craved more time on an actual golf course. When she joined First Tee — New Hampshire in third grade, she didn’t realize she was signing up for so much more.

“First Tee was my first time truly playing on a ‘real’ golf course, and I was a little nervous, but the entire environment of First Tee really helped me adapt. The fact that the instructors at the First Tee not only cared about helping me improve my golf skills, but also grow as a person, really helped me connect and feel comfortable in the program. I always felt valued and supported.”

Julia admits that she was incredibly timid when she first started. One of the first things Coach Beth did when they began to work together was challenge her to build confidence. At the Sagamore Golf Course where Julia would practice, the 8th hole requires a difficult shot over water. Beth, knowing that timidity was a theme in Julia’s game and in her life, encouraged her to continue to push through the doubt. Ultimately, it made her a better person.

“Beth would always urge me to have confidence and swing through the ball. With each successive visit to the eighth hole, and each ‘be confident’ spoken, I could feel my confidence grow. Finally, I got to the point where I could approach the eighth hole, push away the doubts, and just hit the ball.”

After that, more often than not, the ball would fly over the water. This confidence translated off the course as well. Julia started speaking up more in class and participating in family debates. This growth in confidence allowed her to attack new challenges head on, Julia credits this growth in confidence as the most helpful trait she’s taken away from the First Tee.

Coach Beth agrees. “As she got older, it was beautiful to see her inner strength and self-confidence become greater,” she said. “Advancing through the program, it was obvious that she was a positive influence on others in all aspects of life; not just with golf but at school with friends, in her community, and of course with her family of whom she talks so often about. It has always been a pleasure to golf with Julia – however seeing the wonderful person she has become is the real treasure!”

Julia is now an Eagle certified participant, on track to get her ACE certification. The best part is that this isn’t an isolated story. Across the country, coaches and participants are building lasting bonds, showcasing the growth and evolution of positive relationships that have a ripple effect on the communities they serve and the people they meet each day.

But earlier this year, many chapters were unsure of what the future would hold for coaches and participants. Classes were cancelled and fundraising was unknown. It’s been thanks to generous supporters, like the USGA, who have helped ensure chapters keep their doors open for safe and socially distant programs. First Tee — New Hampshire was one of 51 First Tee chapters to receive a grant from the USGA towards their ongoing commitment to making the game more accessible and welcoming for juniors.

“The USGA’s commitment to investing in First Tee over the years continues to have a lasting impact on the game as well as countless young people in communities across our country,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “We are offering a meaningful and positive experience through golf that helps young people uncover who they are and grow personally. There is no better sport in which to do this, and we are thankful for the USGA’s confidence in our work.”

Learn more about character building programs across the country and how to get started with a First Tee chapter a near you.

Power of Relationships

Mentors can play a critical role in building the confidence of a young person and helping them feel empowered to pursue their goals. But mentoring relationships go beyond that. They are a shared opportunity for learning and growth. Mentoring not only greatly benefits the person you are teaching, but the experience will also have a positive impact on your life. During National Mentoring Month and all year-long, First Tee celebrates and recognizes our coaches, who often times are regarded by participants as mentors. Our coaches make a difference and empower kids every day to become the best version of themselves.
  • 84 percent of teens and 87 percent of alumni at First Tee said their relationships with their coaches were meaningful and grew stronger over time.
Benefits of Being a Mentor:
  • Enjoyment when spending time with someone you care about.
  • A sense of accomplishment when your mentee feels empowered and reaches milestones.
  • Personal growth and the opportunity to learn more about yourself and how to be an effective leader.
  • Knowing you are making an investment in your community and future leaders.
Without caring mentors, positive youth development just doesn’t happen. We believe that a meaningful, quality relationship between coach and participant is vital to our program.

Make a difference today

Offered at more than 1,200 locations across the U.S. and in select international locations, our character building programs are delivered by coaches who are formally trained to empower youth. Check with your local chapter to see if becoming a coach is right for you and change the life of a participant… and yourself. Find a Location Near You

Coach Spotlight: Katie Rudolph

In this season of giving, we want to highlight those who have given so much to our participants. Coaches work tirelessly to teach values and life skills to thousands of kids each year. They are their positive role models to these kids during the most important years of their lives. We are so thankful for all they do, and want to highlight the everyday activities that make them a unique part of our mission. Katie Rudolph is one of these awesome leaders.

Katie Rudolph, Coach at First Tee of Metropolitan New York

How did you originally get involved with the First Tee?

I initially walked into First Tee of Charlotte back in 2010 when Jennifer MacCurrach was the ED. I was interested in volunteering, and I walked out with a job. I was simply going in to inquire about the program and fell in love with the mission, Jennifer and the then-program director, Kaitlyn Jarman. The three of us had SO much fun that first year. Every day was an adventure, to say the least. Without Jennifer (now the Executive Director in Austin) as my mentor, I wouldn’t have caught on as quickly as I did. I didn’t realize how many hats you have to wear in this job.

How long have you served as a Coach, and how has your job evolved over the years?

I initially started as a program coach. I moved to NYC and started at the Metropolitan New York chapter. There I started an all-girls program which evolved over the past seven years to include all of our campuses called Girls Golf and FORE. I took over running the Newark campus and have been overseeing the operations in Newark for the past six years. Because of our huge footprint in the NYC/NJ area, I’ve taken on the role of Chief Operating Officer for our organization, assisting our Executive Director in all things: fundraising, curriculum and staffing.

What was the biggest impact First Tee has had on your life?

I think it’s the moment you realize the kids watch every single detail about what I do. If I eat apples, the kids eat apples. If I look at my putt from the other side of the hole, the kids look at their putt from the other side. If I think my mom is cool, they think their mom is cool. Knowing you have that kind of influence is a special feeling and not one to take for granted.

What is the best part about your job?

Aside from the obvious that you get to help shape the lives of kids, the unpredictability of my day. One minute you can be wiping a kid’s nose, the next you’re giving a tour to a potential million dollar donor, and the next you’re helping a parent sign her daughter up for a college tour. No two days are ever the same, and I love that part.

What accomplishments are you most proud of, and what goals do you have going forward?

We’ve had so many success stories I am proud to be part of. I started Katie’s Golf Academy for the kids that are really taking to the game. We push the kids harder than they have ever been pushed, and that’s always exciting to see them start the program nervous and intimidated and finish more confident and proud of themselves for doing something so physically demanding. Recently, I’m most proud of being part of the team that helped bring a girl over from Kenya to play college golf. She grew up in the slums of Kibera and is now getting an American education and playing college golf. It’s wild to think that I was able to help another person in such a profound way.

Biggest takeaway from First Tee:

It boils down to the saying that if you don’t feel like you’re working, you must be doing something you love. This job is a labor of love. I always have a good time with the other First Tee coaches talking about all the little things we do on a daily basis that will never go recognized, but are the reasons a lot of us keep showing up.

You change kids’ lives every day as a First Tee Coach. Tell us a bit about a time when you witnessed such a change.

One moment that I always think back on…  I took some kids who had never been on the golf course before just to see it and experience what it was like. We were on the 9th hole near the clubhouse, and from the other side of the fairway I saw a kid pull a six-iron from about 100 yards, which was way too much club. Not too concerned because he hadn’t exactly gotten any off the ground yet, I didn’t say anything. Wouldn’t you know, it was the most beautiful shot that unfortunately sailed over the green, over the fence and into the parking lot right on top of the hood of a brand new car. Talk about a teachable moment. We left a note on the car with our names on it. The poor kid was a nervous wreck. Everything turned out fine and the owner of the car was really nice about it. Fast forward to the end of the summer, I was asking the kids what their favorite day of the summer was with us. The little guy that hit the car told me that was the best day of his life. When I asked him why, he told me that was the first time he had ever taken responsibility for something.  It was an “ah-ha” moment for me for sure about the impact we have.

Any other standout moments?

Too many to put into words! Does your child have a mentor like Katie in their life? They could! Learn more about our programs and find a location near you.

Alumni Go to Work for The First Tee

Alumni of The First Tee know the feeling. The feeling of staying connected with that special coach, mentor, and friend that made a difference in their life. They may be out of the program, but the love for golf, core values and lessons learned are far from over. So for many of our alumni, giving back to The First Tee is the only natural next step. Research shows that 50% of chapters across the country have The First Tee alumni working as full-time employees. But it doesn’t stop there, they also fill other important roles, such as volunteers and mentors. Here’s what some of The First Tee alumni have to say about making an impact as an employee of the organization:

Why I Decided to work for and give back to The First Tee

The First Tee Alumna, Ashley Noda, announcing rules at The First Tee of Silicon Valley’s junior tournament
Ashley Noda, The First Tee of Silicon Valley “The First Tee had a huge part in shaping the person I am today. I constantly find myself using the life skills lessons I learned without even realizing I’m doing it. To be able to play a part in shaping today’s youth and giving them the tools and lessons I received growing up means the world to me. It has been so rewarding building relationships with so many of our participants and their families. I’ve started to really see the difference I can make here, the ways in which I can serve as a role model and how I can empower our youth.” Chase Benton, The First Tee of Greater Austin “The First Tee has been apart of my life for over 15 years now. The people I have met and the opportunities and experiences I have been provided is something I will forever be grateful for. I wanted to work for The First Tee to ensure that other kids growing up have those same (or better) experiences. The First Tee is special. I know I can share my story with others and help the continued growth of this program so that we can reach more youth. My current chapter at The First Tee of Greater Austin has been amazing and has helped me grow and learn more about what this organization can do. It is a great feeling to be in a position where you can help kids and see your work have a positive impact on the community.” Maggie Hartman, The First Tee of Pikes Peak “When the opportunity arose as the Director of Golf and Education with The First Tee of Pikes Peak, it was a clear choice to go back to my roots at The First Tee.  I grew up in The First Tee since before I can remember and went on to be a mentor and coach throughout my teen years. My awareness that I wouldn’t be where I am today without this organization inspires me to share the same positive experience that I had with current participants in the Pikes Peak community. I am blessed to be in a position now where I can not only give back but also mentor junior golfers while helping them improve their skills, share the game with individuals who may not otherwise have the chance to play and work to diversify the game I love. I will always be grateful to The First Tee and I look forward to watching our participants grow in the game and their lives.”
The First Tee alumnus, Michael Walker, Outreach Manager, coaches young participant in local National School Program class
Michael Walker, The First Tee of Greater Dallas “It all started when I was 13 years old being from a single parent household with no idea what to do in life. Then one day my mom signed me up for The First Tee program here in Dallas. After 5 weeks of it, I was hooked. It wasn’t necessarily the golf aspect that got me, but learning the life skills/core values like perseverance that got me. The most valuable aspect though was meeting a staff member who would, later on, become a father figure who still treats me as a son to this day. Once I joined the chapter staff in 2015, I knew I was so blessed to have this come full circle so that I can have the same impact on other kids in the program. Hoping that they can be given the same many opportunities that I had.”

Make a Difference

Looking to be a part of changing lives through The First Tee? We have many opportunities across the country for employment and volunteer positions. Contact your local chapter to find out more and join a family that gives back. Employment Volunteer Your Time

Why Should You Become A Mentor?

Mentoring relationships are a shared opportunity for learning and growth. Yet many who consider mentoring a young person don’t know where to start or are concerned they won’t be a good fit. It’s good to put away your worries and focus on not only what the relationship will do for the young person, but what the benefits of being a mentor could do for your life.

6 Benefits of being a Mentor1:

  1. Have fun
  2. Achieve personal growth and learn more about yourself
  3. Improve self-esteem and feel that you are making a difference
  4. Gain a better understanding of other cultures and develop a greater appreciation for diversity
  5. Feel more productive and have a better attitude at work
  6. Enhance relationships with your own children and family
During National Mentoring Month and all year-long, The First Tee celebrates and recognizes our coaches. Research has shown that young people in The First Tee refer to their coaches as mentors.
  • 84% of teens & 87% of alumni at The First Tee said their relationships with their coaches were meaningful and grew stronger over time.

The Power of Relationships:

Without caring mentors, positive youth development just doesn’t happen. At The First Tee, we take coaching seriously. We believe that a meaningful, quality relationship between coach and participant is vital to our program. See what our coaches have to say about the relationships they formed.

Make a difference today

Offered at more than 1,200 locationsThe First Tee program was developed by experts in the field of positive youth development and is delivered by trained coaches who thrive off the relationships made with our participants. Check with your local chapter to see if becoming a coach is right for you and change the life of a young person….and yourself! Find a Location

What makes a good mentor?

If you’ve been fortunate enough to have had a teacher, supervisor or coach who has been a mentor to you and made a positive difference in your life, you know he or she wore many hats. Mentors act as role models, cheerleaders, policy enforcers, advocates, and friends. Mentors assume these different roles during the course of a relationship, and share some basic qualities.

A good mentor has:

• A sincere desire to be involved with a young person • Respect for young people • Active listening skills • Empathy • Ability to see solutions and opportunities • Flexibility

Above all, a good mentor is willing to take the time to get to know their mentee, to learn new things that are important to the young person, and even to be changed by their relationship. During National Mentoring Month and all year-long, The First Tee celebrates and recognizes our coaches. Research shows that The First Tee participants think of their coaches as mentors. Take a look at what some of our junior golfers have to say about their coaches.

How my mentor made a Difference

Braxton Caldwell, The First Tee of Pine Mountain “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 use 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.”
Coach Matt Bassler caddies for Charles Blount during the 2017 PURE Insurance Championship
Charles Blount, The First Tee of Greater Baltimore “My relationship with Coach Matt is extremely significant to me. He believes in me when I’m having an awesome time and when I’m having a horrible day. He was there for me when my father passed away and showed me that we don’t have to be blood to be family.” Alyssa Caraballo, The First Tee of Roanoke Valley “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.”

mentoring matters

Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter.

More Than a Game

Offered at more than 1,200 locationsThe First Tee 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! Or how you can register your child. Locations

Mentoring Relationships Change Lives

Relationships matter. Especially mentoring relationships. In fact, they’re life-changing. Oprah has said, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” And she’s right.

With a mentor, at-risk youth are1:

Research has shown young people in The First Tee refer to their coaches as mentors.
  • 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities
  • 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities
  • 55% more likely to enroll in college
Yet 1 in 3 kids are growing up without a mentor in their lives.2 During National Mentoring Month and all year-long, The First Tee celebrates and recognizes our coaches. Research has shown that young people in The First Tee refer to their coaches as mentors. Our youth participants believe coaches care about them, help them set goals and inspire them to use the skills they’ve learned far beyond golf. The First Tee coaches build supportive relationships based on 1) empathy, 2) high positive expectations and 3) advocacy.3 When these elements are in place in a young person’s life, they experience better outcomes in academic motivation, social and emotional skills and personal responsibility. And high-risk behaviors decrease.4

How does it happen?

New research confirms after participating in The First Tee’s multi-level and multi-year coach development program, coaches are transformed over time from quality coaches to community advocates.
  • 90% believe they are better at coaching
  • 89% believe they are better at building relationships with youth
  • 86% believe they are a mentor


Offered at more than 1,200 locations, The First Tee program was developed by experts in the field of positive youth development and is delivered by trained coaches. Our mission is to help prepare kids and teens from all backgrounds for success in all areas of life. Find a location near you
1,2 “A Lasting Impact: The First Tee’s Role in Fostering Postive Youth Development,” 2015, Springfield College Center for Youth Development and Research Roehlkepartain, E. C., Pekel, K., Syvertsen, A. K., Sethi, J., Sullivan, T. K., & Scales, P. C. (2017). Relationships First: Creating Connections that Help Young People Thrive. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.  

Volunteering with Heart: Billy Brent Recognized as Volunteer of the Year

Billy Brent makes remarks during his acceptance speech.
What does it take to be a volunteer? It takes heart. And William “Billy” Brent has that and so much more when it comes to volunteering at The First Tee of Northwest Florida. “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” — Elizabeth Andrew Brent was recently recognized as The First Tee’s 2017 George H.W. Bush Shell Oil Volunteer of the Year during our bi-annual Network Meeting. A prestigious honor as The First Tee hails more than 24,000 volunteers. Executive Director Marty Stanovich shares why Brent is deserving of this recognition.

William “Billy” Brent has been a volunteer with The First Tee of Northwest Florida since the day we opened the doors at our first programming site, Osceola Golf Course—14 years ago this year. But he is much more than just a volunteer—he has been a Board Member, an Annual Donor, Mentoring Program Director and a friend to so many young people inside The First Tee and outside as well—and has privately funded multiple college scholarships for deserving at-need students from our area.

In his personal life, “Coach Billy” is a model for what we would hope our children would grow up to become. He began his adult life by joining the U.S. Army and serving with honor and distinction in Vietnam. Through his professional career he has been an area manager for Goodyear, a District Manager of the Pensacola News Journal and a truly talented and accomplished golfer in his own right, he played professional golf for five very successful years. Experienced as a caddy as well, he has long been involved in minority and junior golf circles as a teacher and mentor with the Par Four Golf Club.

While volunteering for us in the early days, he still worked 40 hours per week as an IT Specialist/Computer Programmer for the U.S. Government at Naval Air Station Pensacola—but he always made time after work and on the weekends for The First Tee of Northwest Florida. He has never taken a dime for his teaching; in fact, he has spent a great deal of his own money in support of our programs and our juniors and continues to do so even to the present day.

Following our chapter’s founding in 2004, he immediately stepped forward and volunteered his support and over the course of the last five years he has never missed a class. Recently, after playing in a weekend golf tournament out of state, he drove through the night and early morning back to Pensacola to attend a voluntary day-long coach training session—and then spent two hours that afternoon teaching and mentoring our participants. Such is his passion for The First Tee and for our junior golfers.

Coach Billy is a crowd favorite, always teaching with conviction and enthusiasm, with a great smile and animated personality. He truly has a unique gift: To always be able to communicate on the level of his students, no matter their age, ability or walk of life. A parent who has had two children in the program recently sent me a text message that simply said: “Coach Billy is The Man.” I couldn’t agree more, hence his nomination as our Volunteer of the Year.

Do you have a heart for volunteering? Join us at The First Tee.

Start Volunteering

Developing Leaders: Impact Beyond the Golf Course

How do youth at The First Tee grow up to be leaders and positive influences in their community? It starts with positive youth development. Developing leaders requires recognizing and enhancing young people’s strengths. That’s what The First Tee is all about. We use golf a way to create supportive and positive environments needed to build on those strengths. Through opportunities and positive mentoring relationships, youth today become leaders of tomorrow. Alumni, like 21-year-old Luke Shrestha from The First Tee of Fresno, amaze us with their talents and accomplishments. Luke shares in his own way how his chapter helped him become the person he is today.

Luke’s Leadership Journey

Luke Shrestha, alumnus, The First Tee of Fresno
When I first joined The First Tee of Fresno around the age of 10, I was a super shy kid that would be more likely to look at the ground than look someone in the eyes. I didn’t know how to introduce myself to another person properly and I hardly talked at all. I remember being skeptical of having to learn life values along with golf since I just wanted to learn about golf, but my mom signed me up anyway. After that day, every class that I went to I started to open up more and more and the shyness started to go away. After a year in the program, I could easily go up to someone and introduce myself with no problem.

Growing in Confidence

As a kid, I struggled with confidence, but The First Tee classes helped me become more confident as well. After many years in the program, I started applying to go to national academies that The First Tee offered. I got accepted to go to Kansas one year for a Life Skills & Leadership Academy, and to Virginia the next year for the College Golf Prep Academy. In both of those experiences, I met people that I still keep in contact with today and play some of the best golf courses in the country. I will always treasure those memories. Without The First Tee of Fresno, none of those life-changing experiences would have happened.

Giving Back to the Community

For a couple years during college, I coached for The First Tee. This was such a rewarding and educational experience for me to not only be able to help kids that may have been in the same situation I was in at their age, but I also learned how to teach and give back. I had to learn how create a lesson plan, deal with rambunctious children, and how to be a leader. Learning life skills, especially leadership skills, in The First Tee helped me many times and even got me a job organizing and partly leading a company.

Pursuing a Career with Courage

Today, I am in Los Angeles working fulltime as a music producer and songwriter. Through the things I learned in The First Tee, I have been able to work on platinum selling records and billboard number ones. I have been able to be in the studio with some of the biggest artists of today, and I have the confidence to know my skills and creativity are valuable. I know for a fact that without The First Tee, I would not be down in LA making music like I am now. The First Tee of Fresno not only instilled confidence in me, it also made me more driven, showed me how to go after my goals and dreams, and how to approach stressful situations. All the life lessons that I was taught as a kid, I still use today. Every session I walk into, I walk into with the same mindset I used to walk onto the golf course with. A mindset of leadership, confidence, courage, patience, perseverance and every single Nine Core Value.

Thank you so much to all my Fresno coaches for the guidance and support throughout the years. I would not be the person I am today without that guidance.


Research shows our youth development program has a lasting impact, creating better citizens and lifelong golfers in the process. Our program aims to get young people ready for life’s challenges and pursue their goals. Find a chapter in your area to get started! Our Program