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The First Tee of Brunswick County received its charter in 2005. I was lucky enough to be involved with the program for six years, serving on the board of directors and handling its public relations.
The program impressed me from the start.
I had been a Girl Scouts leader, a church youth group leader and the chairwoman of the junior golf program at our club in New Jersey. I have always loved spending time with teenagers because they are the most exciting, innovative human beings in the world. They ask questions no one else will ask. They are still concerned with the “meaning of life.” They wonder and think in grand terms and they dream big dreams.
The First Tee is a scouting program, a youth program and a golf program all rolled up into one. The First Tee teaches golf, to be sure, but it teaches so much more: life skills and core values.
Because of that, attending meetings, taking pictures and writing articles and press releases about The First Tee was fun, a true labor of love.
Now our Brunswick County chapter is old enough to have youth in college. I wanted to touch base with a few of these young ladies and gentlemen to find out what they are doing, so I invited four of them to come to Brick Landing to play golf and have lunch with me.
I’ve known Dalton and Molly Gore, Greg Hensley and Holden Patterson since they were little kids, just starting the game of golf.
Dalton Gore is a senior at Mount Olive College majoring in business management. Mount Olive College was founded in 1951. It is a NCAA Division II school with the main campus near Goldsboro. Dalton is one of the stalwarts on the Mount Olive golf team, which placed in the top five at regional competition last year.
He has flaming red hair and a winning smile and a disarming personality. He has a beautiful swing and hits the ball a ton — and dead straight. At Brick Landing, with its narrow fairways and miles of ponds, creeks, salt marsh and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Dalton kept the ball in play.
“I’ve made lots of friends in college and because of the golf team,” he said. “I’ve had the chance to travel all over the country.”
This year the Mount Olive men’s golf team will compete in such places as Kiawah Island, S.C., and Orlando and St. Augustine, Fla.
This summer Dalton worked on the Green Crew at The Founders Course at St. James Plantation, a job he enjoyed and that also gave him the ability to play and to practice. According to Walt Stachura, his former coach at The First Tee, Dalton shot a 61 on The Founders Course before heading back to college. Expect great things of the Mount Olive team this year.
Ever practical, when I asked Dalton what he wanted to do after college, he replied, “I look forward to graduating and getting a job that will make me enough money to live and to eat.”
His sister, Molly, attends Brunswick Community College and is taking science courses. Soft-spoken and beautiful, Molly hopes to move on and study at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington.
“I’m not sure what I specifically want to do for a career yet,” she said. “I just want to finish my education.”
Greg Hensley will be a sophomore at Campbell University, where he is enrolled in the Professional Golf Management program. The rigorous program allows students to graduate with a business degree and become a certified Class A PGA golf professional at the same time.
Part of the requirements is for students to do several internships. This summer Greg worked in the pro shop at The Players Club at St. James and also as an intern at the North Carolina Life Skills and Leadership Academy at Cinghiale Creek, home of The First Tee of Brunswick County.
Asked about his future, Greg plans to get his master’s in business administration and then work in the golf industry, perhaps as a teaching pro at a golf school or as a golf-fitness expert.
“I would love someday to own my own golf school, which would combine golf skills and fitness,” he said. “I like working with kids and being around people of all ages. I really enjoyed being part of the leadership academy this summer.”
Holden Patterson is in the PGM program at Coastal Carolina University. He also was an intern at the leadership academy this summer.
Holden will graduate in December 2016 and, like Greg, he also would like to be a teaching pro. He also thinks about working with the PGA Tour and/or getting in sales of golf equipment.
“The ultimate job would be a sales rep who travels with the PGA Tour,” he said.
There are many other former participants of The First Tee who are doing extremely well as they move through college and into jobs in the real world.
I spoke with Al Arrigoni, former executive director of The First Tee of Brunswick County who is now associate director of the Southeast Region of The First Tee. His territory includes South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Much of his time is spent visiting the 28 chapters in his region.
We talked about the graduates of The First Tee, kids he knew and coached in the early years of our chapter.
“The First Tee of Brunswick County is a huge success in large part because of the volunteers,” he said. “The kids have coaches who are not just good golfers but are also successful business people. They mentor the kids and are examples of what hard work and perseverance can do.”
“Lisa Chandler, a young girl who I coached in The First Tee of the Sandhills in Pinehurst years ago, has just been named the new executive director of that chapter. This is a perfect example of kids learning core values and community service and then moving on to become involved in The First Tee themselves.” (For a Golf Channel interview with Chandler and Arrigoni, go to www.thegolfchannel and search The First Tee-Al Arrigoni).
Stachura is still in touch with many of the kids he coached and mentored in The First Tee. They often call him to ask his advice and to tell him the good and bad news of their lives. He is not at all surprised by the success of many of our alumni.
“The First Tee lays a foundation for these kids,” he said. “They learn to build a go-to team at the Eagle level. As they move forward, the Ace level teaches them to plan for their future, to make commitments and to give back to the community.”
Rebecca Albin, the present executive director of The First Tee of Brunswick County and The First Tee of the Grand Strand, observed Greg and Holden as they fulfilled their duties as interns at the leadership academy this past summer.
“These young men were outstanding workers in our first Leadership Academy. They didn’t just fulfill their duties, but they asked for more assignments,” she said. “They showed a maturity and level of responsibility that was amazing.”
Brunswick County can be proud of the many successful alumni of The First Tee. We will continue to report their successes to you.
Golf Gab groaner
Duffer Laws: 1. Your best round of golf will be followed almost immediately by your worst round ever. The probability of the latter increases with the number of people you tell about the former.
2. New golf balls are water-magnetic. The more expensive the golf ball, the greater its attraction to water.
3. The last three holes of a round will automatically adjust your score to what it really should be.
(Submitted by Mary Lou Barnhardt)
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her at facebook.com/elsa.bonstein.