Four Teens Earn Selection into the First Tee College Scholarship Program

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL.  (September 12, 2022) – First Tee participants from Minnesota, Massachusetts, San Francisco and Orange County, Calif. have each been awarded scholarships and selection in to the First Tee College Scholarship Program. The teens were selected following their participation in the First Tee Leadership Series and Summit in partnership with PGA TOUR Superstore based on their intentional and innovative commitment to personal growth and development as leaders throughout the course of the program.

First Tee and PGA TOUR Superstore congratulate:

  • Gabriella Mercado from First Tee – Orange County:  Gabriella is a 16-year-old high school junior from Placentia, Calif. She’s been involved with First Tee for seven years. She holds a 4.0 GPA and has aspirations of playing college golf and then becoming a sports lawyer.  Gabriella enjoys community service and in her first two years of high school accumulated more than 225 hours.
  • Jaylyn Remolona from First Tee – San Francisco: Jaylynis a 15-year-old high school junior from San Francisco.  Jaylyn attends Mercy High School in Burlingame has been involved with First Tee for seven years. She holds a 3.65 and outside of school her two hobbies are golf and singing.  
  • Kyzar Joshi from First Tee — Massachusetts: Kyzar is 17-year-old high school senior at Ashland High School in Ashland, Mass.He has been involved with First Tee for more than 10 years. He holds a 4.12 GPA and his career aspirations include playing college golf and majoring in finance or economics in college.  Kyzar serves as his class treasurer, and helped lead the Ashland High School golf team to the state section tournament. Kyzar is in the process of completing the ACE level of the First Tee Curriculum.
  • Saloni Somia from First Tee – Minnesota:  Saloni, from Plymouth, Minn.,is a17-year-old high school senior at Minnetonka High School. She has been involved with First Tee for four years. She holds a 4.0 GPA and serves as the President of her school’s National Honor Society, Captain of the Minnetonka Girls Golf Team, Founder and President of Everyone Eats (an organization that provides homeless youth allergy friendly foods) and co-founded a teen-led YouTube channel that gives good allergy advice to teens.

As First Tee Scholars, the teens will receive support throughout their post-graduate careers. The need and merit-based program provides scholarships up to $5,000 per year, renewable for up to four years of college admission. In addition, each scholar is paired with a dedicated, trained adult mentor who will help encourage and guide them throughout the college experience, including virtual and in person meetups. The program also provides professional development workshops held in person throughout the year.

“We are very proud of these four deserving teens from across the country,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “They each showed dedication and impressive character traits throughout the Leadership Series and Summit.  They are leaders in their schools, at home and at their First Tee chapters. Through the First Tee College Scholarship Program, we will continue to support them in their personal and professional development and empower them to hone their leadership skills as they pursue their careers. We’re thankful for partners like PGA TOUR Superstore who support these game changing initiatives.”

The four teens were selected from the more than 250 participants who attended the Leadership Series and Summit.  Boasting an average GPA of 3.9 the teens meet the College Scholarship Program eligibility requirements which are based on academic performance, length and involvement in First Tee programs, financial need and commitment to volunteerism.

First Tee College Scholarship Program is made possible by donors and corporate partners who stand behind the program and First Tee’s mission. For more than a decade, PGA TOUR Superstore and PGA TOUR Superstore Chairman Arthur M. Blank have championed First Tee’s mission through charitable and in-kind donations across the country. In September 2020, PGA TOUR Superstore announced a new grant that will help First Tee reach more youth across the U.S. and strengthen its curriculum for teenage participants, including the development of the Leadership Series and Summit.

“We are committed to being a positive influence in our communities and truly believe in the positive impact sports has in developing and supporting youth,” said Dick Sullivan, President & CEO, PGA TOUR Superstore. “We are proud to partner with the First Tee to empower young people with values-based leadership skills that will help them succeed throughout the course of their life. Congratulations Gabriella, Jaylyn, Kyzar and Saloni.”

Photos and broll of the Scholars is available here.

The Key to Setting Reachable Goals

Have you ever thought about your achievements in life? What were the dreams and ambitions that you wanted to work towards? How did you get there? At First Tee, these are the type of questions we propose to kids and teens to help them understand the process of attaining goals; but to reach their goal, they must first understand how goals are formulated.  

A goal is something that you want to do, be or have, but it’s not something that you can do, be or have right at this moment. It’s something you must work to get in the future, and you can apply that to any challenge in life. For example, if your child wants to achieve Honor Roll and receive all As and Bs in school this year, what would that require them to do? They would need to do well on tests and assignments. How would they accomplish that? Encourage them to take good notes, turn in their work on time, and study for their tests. 

For kids, having guidelines or tools can effectively help them identify their goals and make them feel comfortable about reaching them. At First Tee, we utilize four guidelines to do this. Talk to your child about the dreams they currently have and try these out for yourself. 

Four Guidelines for Setting a Reachable Goal: 

  • The goal is Positive: 
    • I want to achieve a passing score of 80% or higher vs. I don’t want to fail this test 
  • The goal is Important to You: 
    • The goal needs to be important to you, not to someone else. You should be able to explain why you want to achieve it and why it will make a difference for you. 
  • The goal is Specific: 
    • You want to know exactly what you’re working toward. 
  • The goal is Under your Control: 
    • Your efforts will allow you to achieve this goal vs. Something that is out of your control like becoming famous or winning the lottery. 

Goal setting is a strategy kids and teens will apply for the rest of their life. When we set our goals, we want to be very clear about them so that we have the best chance to achieve them. The key to remember is that goals come in all shapes and sizes. Just because it doesn’t work for someone else doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve it. Your kids will learn from both their achievements and setbacks, but as they begin to set personal goals, they will learn and grow in ways that you did not think possible. 

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

A Game for All

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

By Megan Hart, First Tee HQ 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PGA TOUR Professional Austin Smotherman Joins First Tee as an Official Ambassador

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL., (July 12, 2022) – PGA TOUR professional and First Tee alumnus Austin Smotherman has been named an official ambassador of First Tee. A Loomis, Calif. native, Smotherman participated in the Greater Sacramento chapter from age seven until 18 and developed his golf game and character during his time in the program. As an ambassador, Smotherman will showcase his involvement with the youth development organization and the impact it has on his life to help inspire the next generation.

Smotherman is debuting the First Tee logo on his bag this week during the Barracuda Championship in support of the program and its mission to empower kids and teens to build their strength of character through golf. As an ambassador, he will also give his time to meet with participants, donors, and chapter leadership to inspire more support of its mission and participation of the program.

“I’m honored to take on this role as First Tee Ambassador,” said Smotherman. “Looking back at my time as a participant, I really value the balance of developing my character while I was also developing my golf swing. Those experiences and the skills I acquired helped shape who I am as a person and now as a professional athlete. They still guide me today as I navigate the ups and downs of this game that I love.”

“On behalf of the PGA TOUR, congratulations to Austin Smotherman on today’s announcement regarding his new role as official ambassador of First Tee,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “Competing on the PGA TOUR requires hard work and perseverance and his story and the character strengths he developed during his time in First Tee will help inspire many kids and teens as they explore the many opportunities golf can provide. Austin paying it forward is another example of what makes the PGA TOUR – and our members  – so special.”

During his time in First Tee, Smotherman progressed through the program, transitioning from a participant to a junior coach and mentor to the younger kids. In 2009 and 2010 he played in the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee and in 2011 he earned First Tee – Greater Sacramento’s Core Value Award.

In 2016, he graduated from Southern Methodist University where he played on the men’s golf team. After competing for two seasons on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica (2017 –2018) he transitioned to the Korn Ferry Tour (2019-2021) until he earned his PGA TOUR card in August 2021. Smotherman is the third First Tee alum, following Scott Langley (retired) and Cameron Champ, to achieve this milestone.

“We are proud to welcome Austin as our First Tee ambassador,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “This is a special moment as we celebrate our 25th anniversary and the lasting impact we are having on youth and alumni across the country as they pursue their careers and passions, both on and off the golf course.  His commitment to giving back and dedication to living out his values is an inspiration and will impact many lives.”

Launching in 1997, First Tee is celebrating 25 years of enabling kids to build the strength of character that empowers them through a lifetime of new challenges. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with a life skills curriculum, First Tee creates active learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence and resilience that kids can carry to everything they do. These character education programs are offered at golf courses, schools and youth centers in all 50 states and at six international locations.

About PGA TOUR First Tee Foundation (“First Tee”)  

First Tee ( is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit youth development organization that is supported by the PGA TOUR. Its mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character and instill life-enhancing values through the game of golf. In 2022, First Tee celebrates its 25th anniversary and reaching millions of youth through its network of 150 chapters, 10,000 schools and 1,700 youth centers. Headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA, programs are delivered in all 50 United States and select international locations. President George W. Bush serves as Honorary Chair.  

Sara Henika
[email protected]

JP Ray – First Tee Alumnus

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

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

Developing Positive Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about your feelings 

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

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

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

Develop a healthy mindset 

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

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

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

Building Understanding, Trust and Empathy with Active Listening

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

What is Active Listening?

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

Why does it matter? 

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

How do we practice it?

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

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

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

First Tee Scholars – Class of 2021

In 2021, twelve high school graduates have been selected to the First Tee College Scholarship Program based on academic performance, length and involvement in First Tee programs, financial need and commitment to volunteerism. This class of scholars includes aspiring engineers, accountants, teachers and environmental activists, all of whom will be attending stand out colleges and universities, including Dartmouth University, University of Pennsylvania, Boston College, University of Indiana and other top institutions across the country. The Scholars also represent diverse backgrounds from communities across the First Tee network. The class is comprised of eight females and four males. The Scholars’ average GPA is 4.19 on a 4.0 scale and hold an average of 1,422 out of 1,600 on SAT and 31 out of 36 on ACT. Five of the Scholars will play on their college’s golf team. First Tee College Scholarship Program supports selected alumni throughout their college career in an effort to further their life skill development and mentorship. The need and merit-based program provides scholarships up to $5,000 per year, renewable for up to four years of college admission. The program also provides professional development workshops, access to internships and full-time employment placement post-graduation. One of the key factors of the program is pairing Scholars with a dedicated adult mentor who will help encourage and guide them throughout the four years.

Meet the Scholars

Claire Alford, First Tee — Central Coast Santa Clara University American Mathematics Champion, AP Scholar with Distinction and American Indian/Hispanic National Merit Scholar are just a few of the amazing individual achievements Claire has attained in her life. What is more impressive, though, is Claire’s drive to help her community and create outlets that impact others. Of the many clubs and funds Claire has created, one was Birdies for Baskets. This was an initiative by Claire, in which she played 65 holes of golf in a single day raising more than $1,000 providing food baskets for under privileged families. Graduating with a 4.56 GPA, Claire plans to major in Public Health and Biology with a goal of becoming an anesthesiologist. Marion Caldwell, First Tee — Four Corners Dartmouth University Pursuing a future in teaching, Marion is passionate about passing down the knowledge she has obtained throughout her life to the children within her community. Marion will attend Dartmouth University where she will major in both English and History. Throughout high school, Marion achieved numerous academic honors such as national honor society and earning a cumulative 4.39 GPA. When asked who her dream golf foursome is, Caldwell said a close friend, someone to teach and someone to learn from. Marion’s enthusiasm for both teaching and learning aligns perfectly with the goals and values of First Tee. She is a 10-year participant at First Tee — Four Corners and is the first participant to achieve ACE certification, the highest designation in the First Tee program.  Natalie Cao, First Tee — Greater Houston University of Pennsylvania  Earning a cumulative 4.37 GPA, Natalie strives for greatness in both the classroom and on the course. While at the University of Pennsylvania, Natalie will play on the women’s golf team and will major in economics. She has used her passion for economics to become a financial advisor to help her community, working as the sole junior cashier and assistant treasurer for a bi-monthly book sale, raising more than $12,000 each year for her library. An eight-year participant at First Tee — Greater Houston, Natalie has also been a First Tee Junior Mentor since 2015 making a monumental impact on many through both the game of golf, and her desire to help others. On her goal of becoming a financial advisory, Natalie thinks it’s very similar to mentoring kids at First Tee as she’ll give counsel to those who seek her assistance and knowledge, focusing on financial goals instead of golf goals. Molly Castle, First Tee — Tennessee University of Tennessee Knoxville As a First Tee — Tennessee participant for seven years, Molly has achieved ACE certification, the highest designation in the First Tee program, and used that experience and her love of golf for helping others within her community. She is an active volunteer for Second Harvest Food Bank and the Tennessee School for the Blind, where she assists those who are visually impaired learn the game of golf. Molly is a triplet and while her siblings have decided to continue their golf careers in college, Molly has chosen to focus on her passion to study agriculture and her drive for continued academic success. Malisone Chanthapanya, First Tee — Forth Worth Texas Wesleyan University A 12-year participant at First Tee — Fort Worth, Malisone is the youngest participant to ever achieve ACE Certification in the chapter’s history. She serves on the Chapter Junior Advisory Committee and will play in the 2021 First Tee National Championship. With a cumulative 4.0 GPA combined with her success on the course, Malison plans to continue her golf career at Texas Wesleyan University while double majoring in computer science and accounting. Quincy Crawford, First Tee — Greater Washington D.C. University of Cincinnati Being a part of the First Tee — Greater Washington D.C. for a decade, Quincy has been able to make an impact in his community using both his love for golf, and his passion to help others. Quincy has plans to study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, but the impressive academic achievements do not stop there. Fluent in four languages – English, French, Italian, Russian – Quincy earned a cumulative 3.98 GPA while being on the honor roll all four years throughout high school. He was named captain of his high school golf team and plays bass in his school’s advanced orchestra. The First Tee Scholarship Program will empower him as he pursues his goal of using his Aerospace Engineering degree to create fuel-efficient aircrafts, lessoning the overall carbon footprint and possibly slow the rate of climate change. Rebecca Jones, First Tee — Indiana Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology With goals of one day working on environmentally friendly engineering projects, Rebecca will be studying environmental engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Holding a cumulative GPA of 3.39, the classroom is not the only place Rebecca exceled, as she was a three-sport athlete (Basketball, Golf, Track) in high school earning all-conference accolades in each. Being a member of the First Tee — Indiana for six years and achieving multiple medals as a competitor, Rebecca has been able to use golf as both an outlet to give back and succeed individually. Not only thriving in the classroom and athletic fields, she is a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo and a five-year president of the Orchestra Council. Rebecca is most excited about using her degree to earn a career focusing on land remediation and implementing new systems to reduce pollution, ultimately striving to make the area she grew up in a cleaner and greener place that will benefit the entire community. Josh Lendach, First Tee — Triangle University of Cincinnati Through both his hard work in the classroom and on the golf course, Josh has earned the privilege to play golf at the University of Cincinnati. Josh has been a part of the First Tee — Triangle for 13 years and continues to use golf as an outlet to help others. He’s been a junior coach and mentor for the younger First Tee participants, raises money at an annual charity golf event benefiting the Nicklaus Children’s Foundation, and when schools closed in 2020 due to the pandemic, he founded Golf Gives Back with his fellow high school golf teammates to collect food for those in need. Hoping his passions for golf and environmental/atmospheric sciences collide, Josh wants to study how different environmental and atmospheric conditions could threaten the sustainability of golf course maintenance for future generations. Meghna Mazumdar, First Tee — Connecticut Boston College Scoring a 1430 on her SATs while achieving a 4.12 cumulative GPA, Meghna will study Business Economics at Boston College in the fall. Her passion for investing in the stock market started at a young age which was featured on the Today Show when she was 13. Since 2011, her investment portfolio performance has consistently beat the S&P 500 index and she donates part of her investment gains to various charities and a First Tee — Connecticut Scholarship. Her love for investing and golf collided in 2016 when she was selected as winner of the Wells Fargo Succeeding Together contest, earning her the opportunity to play with PGA TOUR player Rory McIlroy in Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am. Meghna is a 13-year participant at First Tee — Connecticut and her love of the game led her to be the founder of her high school’s first girl’s golf team. She was also recently elected as one of eight people from across the nation to serve on the First Tee’s Participant Advisory Council. Benjamin Nganga, First Tee — Tennessee University of Indiana Benjamin’s excellent drive to succeed in the classroom has achieved him a 4.46 cumulative GPA earning him the prestigious Fry Scholarship to attend the University of Indiana Kelly Business School. Benjamin’s family immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya and could not be prouder of Benjamin becoming the first person in their family to attend college, with sights on a double major in Finance and Computer Science. Benjamin’s hard work was not limited to the classroom, as the seven-year First Tee — Tennessee participant was his high school golf team’s captain and in 2019 was named first team All-Metro. One of his future passions is to develop a non-profit that helps with the expenses of youth sports. Kaleb Palm, First Tee — Central Florida Florida Atlantic University Kaleb is a six-year participant at First Tee — Central Florida whose passion and drive has helped him earn selection into many of First Tee’s national mentoring and empowerment events.  Kaleb has earned a cumulative 4.69 GPA and PGA TOUR Champions player, Skip Kendall, says that “Kaleb has always been very positive and never lets adversity get in his way.” The son of a pastor, Kaleb uses what any adverse experience has taught him to help in many community outreach programs, such as helping the local food pantry in feeding less fortunate families. Borina Sutikto, First Tee — Silicon Valley Santa Clara University With plans already in place to study Accounting & Information Systems while playing golf at Santa Clara University, Borina is passionate about the game both on and off the course. Earning both Junior Golf Association of Northern California Player of the Year honors along with the Girls Low Scoring Average Champion, Borina’s golf skill and love for the game is second to none. The trait that separates her from the pack is her passion to grow the game by helping others. She is a member of the Women’s Nine Hole Golf Association, an organization that helps promote the game of golf and inspire more women to play it. Having earned a 4.25 GPA, the nine-year participant at First Tee — Silicon Valley gives back to the younger participants as a junior coach and mentor.
First Tee College Scholarship Program is made possible by donors and corporate partners who stand behind the program and First Tee’s mission, including Astros Golf Foundation, Peter A. Bonanni Scholarship Fund, Chevron Corporation, A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, Timothy W. Finchem Scholarship Fund, Paul and Ruth Flowers, Morrell Studios, Charles Schwab, TruGreen, Edward and Lisa Vaughan and Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund.

Lilian Davey: Faces of First Tee, April 2021

Lilian DaveyHi, I am Lilian Davey. I am 13 years old and have been playing with the First Tee program for 3 years. I’ve always had an eye for golf; it was something I could just sit and watch and never get bored of. Before golf, and still till this day, I’ve had a passion for different types of martial arts. I started doing different types of martial arts when I was 6 years old, but right now I practice Okinawan karate, boxing and I’m a brown belt. Aside from sports, I love learning different languages. I am fluent in French and American Sign Language. I’m currently learning Spanish, French Sign Language, German, and Latin. I go to Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orléans which is a French school, and is how I learned French. Faces of the First Tee portraits: New Orleans Snapshots by Andrew J. Cohoon

Empowering Youth Through Golf

Golf is a metaphor for life – full of unexpected challenges, and how we choose to respond defines who we are. As the kids and teens in our programs know, success is not defined by how well we play the game.  It’s not about the score at the end of a round, or whether they won the tournament. It’s about the journey. What we learn along the way. And what we do with that learning makes all the difference. What makes First Tee different from other youth development organizations is how we do our work: through golf. By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with a life skills curriculum, we create active learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that kids can carry to everything they do While participating in First Tee, 82% of the youth in our programs felt more confident with their social skills and 73% reported feeling more confident in their academic ability. “I am grateful for the First Tee program and the impact it has had on my life. I have learned that golf is much more than a game, much more than just swinging a club, and carries with it life lessons that I will draw from for the rest of my life. The program has provided me with opportunities to play matches and tournaments that not only improved my game but provided lasting friendships with the golf families and coaches over the years. The program has provided me with a safe place to be a lifetime student of the game. There will always be something to learn, something to change, something to improve, (whether it’s a part of my golf game or a non-golf, real life situation) and First Tee ties them all together in a pretty bow, and helps me understand the connection.” – Emily Knox, First Tee — Tri Valley Experiences are our greatest teacher. We believe in developing the ones that are just as fun as they are meaningful, where kids feel excited to grow, safe to fail, and better equipped for whatever comes their way next. Our trained coaches create safe, supportive and empowering environments to help our participants prepare for life ahead, including friendships, school, college and even their careers. Whether a child’s goal is to be a lawyer, a teacher, an astrophysicist, a musician, or a professional golfer, kids become a better version of themselves when they have the space to be who they are, surrounded by passionate people who guide them to see what they are capable of. If anyone you know thinks that golf isn’t for them, invite them to try it the First Tee way.

William Smothers: Faces of First Tee, March 2021

Portrait of William SmothersHola! My name is William Smothers, and I am 11 years young. I am the youngest of five children and a 5th grader at the International School of Louisiana – Westbank. I am a Birdie participant of First Tee. I have a ton of different interests and hobbies outside of golf. I like to build robots, watch Anime Youtube episodes, and play basketball with my neighborhood friends. Also, I love traveling with my family. However, my passion is cooking. I plan to one day turn that passion into a career by becoming a celebrity chef like Gordon Ramsay. I am entering my 3rd year as a First Tee participant. I have enjoyed every year and I am excited about continuing my participation in the program. The First Tee has taught me so much, and I appreciate every lesson taught through the program’s 9 Core Values. Of the 9 Core Values, I believe perseverance will help push me to a great chef. Perseverance teaches me to never give up no matter how tough something gets. Confidence is another core value that will help move me forward because I have enough confidence in my passion for cooking to keep going even if people doubt my skills or abilities. I do aspire to one day be a professional golfer like Mr. Charlie Sifford. If I continue to work hard, focus, and remain humble, I can achieve both: a professional golfer and celebrity chef. Faces of the First Tee portraits: New Orleans Snapshots by Andrew J. Cohoon

First Tee Alumni Compete on the APGA Tour

We believe that golf provides a powerful vehicle to help kids build inner strength and life enhancing skills they can take to everything they do. Joseph Dent, Marcellus Dillard and Joey Stills are First Tee alumni using these life lessons as they compete on the APGA Tour, a launching pad for African Americans and minority golfers to compete and make their way to the PGA TOUR. The three alumni shared their experiences through First Tee and how it’s empowered them to develop their character as they pursue their goals.