Growing the Game While Connecting the Community

Categories: Blog


A dream born at a Chipotle table in August of 2019, became a reality on February 8th, 2020. During a staff lunch at Chipotle, First Tee of the Upstate executive staff and I dreamt of connecting the community and growing the game of golf. It wasn’t long before we decided that becoming an Ernie Els for Autism #GameON Site was the answer! Becoming a #GameON site would allow the chapter to reach a new population by learning strategies to offer adaptive golf to athletes who learn differently.


That lunch sparked six months of hard work, networking and planning, to assure this program’s success. In mid-November First Tee of the Upstate partnered with Upstate-Carolina Adaptive Golf in an effort to serve the special needs community more effectively. Together these organizations launched Els for Autism #GameON via a coaches’ training at Willow Creek Golf Club on February 8th, 2020. It was an honor to have Jack Barrett, from First Tee of the Palm Beaches & an Els for Autism Trained Coach, and Heidi Hoffman, from First Tee of Aiken and 2016 Pilot location of #GameON, conduct our training.

Despite the SNOW, 23 coaches and volunteers, ages 19-80 years old, came out to be certified in the curriculum! Twelve families affected by autism spectrum disorder also came out to participate in our first clinic! The clinic had to be moved indoors, but as evidenced by these pictures, that didn’t stop our fun! These smiles shared by children and their coaches, volunteers, parents, and siblings truly is what it is all about! The sport of golf and how we play is rapidly changing and we are honored to be a part of the change towards adapting and including all athletes!

There are three upcoming community clinics in March, April, & May with registration still available for people ages 7-25 years with any physical or cognitive challenge, as well as their siblings. Click HERE to learn more and to Sign Up Today! Registration includes a FREE #GameON T-shirt (limited amount available) and a discount when you register for all 3 clinics!

If you, or someone you know is interested in signing up to get involved, or if you or someone you know wants to learn more about participating as a #GameON athlete, please reach out to me, Laura Maurer, #GameON Chapter Lead, at

Photos taken by Bonfire Visuals. Thank you for your continued support of our chapter.


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