The daily wakeup call comes as early as 5:45 a.m. Days are long, moving from the practice tee to the golf course to the gym to the classroom. But it’s a welcome challenge for the 24 young golfers who were on campus from July 10-16, participating in The First Tee’s College Golf Prep Academy.
The idea is to simulate the life of a college golfer, so the 14- to 18-year-olds will know what to expect if they choose to pursue their sport on the university level. They live in dorms, eat in the dining hall, work out with university trainers, and play 18 holes a day.
But The First Tee is not all about coaching up elite golfers, though the organization does that with distinction. The program is built upon its “Nine Core Values” – courtesy, judgment, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, and perseverance.
“If you were to ask, maybe 50 percent [of academy participants] have college golf in their sights or are taking an interest in what it’s like to be a professional golfer,” said program coordinator Lisa Maybruch. “One thing we pride ourselves on is that we are not only graduating good golfers from our program, we are graduating good people, too.”
Janane Tan is an 18-year-old whose home chapter is The First Tee of Greater Dallas. This week, she said, she especially valued the chance to work on her mental game. But she also enjoyed gathering on the first floor of her PBA dorm to hang out and get to know other kids, just as she will in the fall, when she meets her new college teammates.
Tan is one of a handful of academy participants who has already committed to play college golf; in her case, she’ll compete for the University of Texas at Arlington. Because she’s been through the recruitment process, she’s able to mentor younger players. That’s how The First Tee works – coaches and players help each other grow, learn, and succeed.
Megan Pak, Miami, was among the top-tier coaches who came from around the country to work with the young players. She called the week a process of self-discovery, one that leads each player to greater self-understanding and helps them set and achieve goals in golf and in life.
The highly competitive academy draws players from The First Tee chapters nationwide. Candidates submit an extensive application that includes a personal essay, community service, extracurricular activities, and a golf resume. While all the participants have a long history with The First Tee, many have not traveled far from home. Some had never been on a plane.
Years of coaching through The First Tee means the players “can show up at premier courses and play well,” Maybruch said. “After the week, their whole demeanor changes. They come in and they’re nervous. At the end of the week, they’re confident. The focus is on the participants this week. It’s all about seeing them fulfill their dreams.”