With summer camps right around the corner, we’re receiving daily phone calls and emails inquiring about programming. One question that is often asked is “Is my teenager too old to enroll in The First Tee?”. This question is tough to answer. Anyone passionate and knowledgeable about our programs will, without hesitation, respond “absolutely not!”. However, most parents, and especially kids, need a little more understanding before clicking on that registration button.
The First Tee of Greater Charlotte requires that all kids, regardless of how advanced their skills, begin at the PLAYer Level. The problem that arises is the majority of kids in this level are beginners to the game and are between the ages of about 9 and 12 years-old. Now, ask any freshman in high school if they want to hang out with 5th graders after school, and they will most certainly reply, “NO!”. Ask any parent if they want their child to enhance their life skills, character, and golf skills, they will most certainly reply, YES!”. So, you can see how we arrive at this issue time and again.
I can easily express my answer in a long and convicting post about how The First Tee is more than a game, more than just a junior golf program. I could explain how we provide college scholarships, send kids to leadership academies and unique opportunities like playing Pinehurst and Pebble Beach.
But, my words are counted for much less compared a young girl’s words who, although at first was reluctant to join, has embraced The First Tee and everything we have to offer… even starting from the PLAYer Level.
Here is an excerpt from a recent essay by Caroline Cole:
This is me on my first day of the Player level class (see photo below). The Player level is where everyone starts. It is funny my mom took this picture. You can see my overwhelming enthusiasm runneth-over at the prospect of learning that I was at least 25 years older – ok 7 years older – than the other “children” in the class. In kid years, it seemed like a really big difference. This very first class – on that very first day – provided my first of many inspirational moments at The First Tee.
It was on that day (with my attitude not completely in check) that a younger participant slipped his hand in mine. I was headed to the practice area, and he asked if I would help him learn to putt. He had been watching me earlier, and I remember the excitement in his eyes and voice when he saw me sink a 6-foot putt. In that same moment when we were holding hands, he told me that no one liked him. I knew that feeling, but I couldn’t imagine that no one liked him. We talked and practiced putting all afternoon. At the end of that day, we both had someone that liked us.
I have been lucky enough over the last 2 and half years to meet some amazing people and to have some dream come true kind of experiences by being involved in The First Tee. I’ve been an honorary observer at the Wells Fargo golf tournament and met top-ranked professional golfers. I am an honored recipient of the Isaac B. Grainger scholarship, and this summer, I will attend the Pinehurst Junior Golf Academy. I will also continue to serve as a junior coach and camp counselor this summer.
So, if you want to be inspired, join The First Tee in holding hands. You will not only change the lives of its participants, but your own life will be made better. Hold hands. Oh, and remember you are never too old to enroll in the PLAYER class.
Caroline Cole is now an Ace Level Participant. She was recently selected to attend The First Tee Life Skills & Leadership Academy this summer.
Please share your thoughts and comments below!