Honesty. Integrity. Sportsmanship. Respect. Confidence. Responsibility. Perseverance. Courtesy. Judgement. As an alum of The First Tee of the Upstate, I proudly attribute all 9 core values to my success. But when asked what my favorite core value is, I always answer Perseverance. Looking back on my 24 years, I see a lot of perseverance woven into my story.
My journey with The First Tee of the Upstate began in 2007 when I was enrolled in my first session with Coach Floyd. Many sessions and certifications later, I was given the opportunity to attend the National Life Skills and Leadership Camp in Phoenix, AZ in 2011. I went to camp loving golf and returned from camp in love with the first tee. It was at this camp that I made a promise to my 16 year old self that I would always be involved with The First Tee in some capacity. The First Tee’s mission statement is “To impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.” I am proof of that statement. I can’t recall the golf skills I learned at camp, but I vividly recall, and continue to use the leadership skills learned. At the closing ceremony, each participant was gifted with a putter cover embroidered with The 9 Core Values.
This putter cover followed me to every high school match and junior tournament throughout the rest of my high school career before following me to college tournaments. However, there is a specific story with this putter cover I often refer to. It was a very hot and humid July day in Sumter, SC. I was playing in a practice round while wishing I was anywhere else. As I approached the green and grabbed my putter, I skimmed the core values and Perseverance jumped out at me. Maybe because it was the longest word on the cover, or maybe because that was the exact core value I needed in the moment. I chose to believe the latter and changed my attitude about the round. I felt better, I played better, and I was proud of myself. From that moment on, when tournament rounds got tough, with weather conditions or unfortunate lies, I would glance at that putter cover and remind myself to persevere. As perseverance became more important to me on the course, it also became a battle cry in school and personal life.
I was a collegiate student athlete at Columbia College in Columbia, SC where I had the chance to pursue 2 dreams- playing collegiate golf and earning a degree in speech language pathology. As you can imagine, perseverance was an important characteristic to have with the demands of being a student athlete. During my second year of college, my team began volunteering with The First Tee Columbia chapter. It was amazing to see my teammates develop the same passion for The First Tee. In fact, one of my teammates is now a volunteer with The First Tee of Greater Charlotte.
After graduating college, I returned home to the Upstate to begin a career as a speech language pathologist- assistant. I was chasing my dream but there was something missing. I became the assistant coach for MHS girl’s golf, thinking that coaching at my alma mater would fill the void. But the void continued. I soon realized that The First Tee was in fact so different from other junior golf programs, and was the missing piece.
I contacted the chapter and soon became a Level I coach. I thought I would breeze through my first sessions, but it took perseverance to grow into the coach I am today. After coaching for 6 seasons, I am learning the art of good coaching is committing to life-long learning. Through my 6 seasons of coaching, I personally have coached approximately 90 PLAYers. Through coaching these 90 young PLAYers I have made a few observations. These PLAYers have come from different backgrounds and different stories. But guess what, golf doesn’t care. Golf is the only sport in the world I can think of that gives an even playing field to every gender, age, race, body type, socio-economic status, and ability. The player is truly competing against themselves while enjoying the diverse company of others. While its been beautiful watching these PLAYers grow in their own game, it has been breathtaking to watch them grow in the core values. I could share 90 stories of different core values I have seen, or heard parents tell me, develop in a meaningful way since beginning programming with The First Tee of the Upstate.
Because I have the unique experience of benefiting from TFT as a participant myself and seeing firsthand almost 100 children in 2 years benefit from the program, I am extremely passionate about providing The First Tee experience to as many communities as possible. Within the past year we have launched into the Hispanic community using a bilingual coach in addition to continued growth with our Boys and Girls Club partnership and LPGA Girls Golf partnership.
However, it is now time that we bring The First Tee experience to the special needs community. I am ecstatic to announce an initiative that will start during our 2020 year with Ernie Els #GameON. As part of our overall programming we are partnering with Ernie Els #GameON to provide the golf and life skills curriculum to children and young adults on the autism spectrum. It will not be easy. It will take hard work and resources, but with perseverance, we will succeed.
With the most recent statistic reading 1 in 58 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the community is large and in need of help. From a speech language pathology perspective, I can assure you that Ernie Els #GameON curriculum is unique and going to impact people with autism in the Upstate in a powerful way. Since funding for the program will be part of the overall budget, the need for financial support is also great.
I would love to invite you to persevere with me and our chapter through the launching of this programming. Through sharing donations of time, financial resources, and network connections we will be sure to reach our goal! Because of generous donations, our chapter is thriving in a variety of communities! If you are interested in persevering with us for this launching with a financial contribution, please check out the DONATE tab on our website to complete your tax-deductible contribution. If you are interested in persevering with us by volunteering your time or sharing network connections, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. On behalf of alum, current participants, volunteers, and coaches, I want to thank you for your donations thus far, and in advance for future donations. I cannot wait to celebrate the success stories we will hear from a range of communities together in 2020 because of the perseverance of our chapter supporters!