(Re)Connect Through The First Tee Alumni Network!
If you are a past participant who was registered at any level, then you are an alum! Join The First Tee Alumni Network today and deepen your connection to The First Tee and catch up with your peers, like this week’s guest blogger and home office summer intern, Sam Odi!
By: Sam Odi, past participant at The First Tee of Augusta
“You get out of The First Tee, what you put into it.” I remember one of my earlier coaches at The First Tee of Augusta telling my class this to motivate us to soak up all that The First Tee has to offer.
My coach would tell stories of past participants who were awarded scholarships, played world-renowned courses, attended all-expense paid academies and even met presidents.
I already looked up to the older junior golfers in the program, but after knowing all of the cool stuff they had done and were doing, well, I wanted to be just like them. I heard the message loud and clear—hard work pays off.
I had my first breakthrough when I was selected to play in The First Tee Open at Pebble Beach in 2009. This is one of the biggest events a participant can attend. More than 70 junior golfers across the country converge at arguably one of the most scenic courses in the world to play in a nationally televised event with Champions Tour players.
Chip Beck was my Champions Tour professional, and together he and I were on the tournament pro-junior leader-board the whole week. I was also fortunate enough to meet Bill Murray and George Lopez, two celebrities that share a passion for golf and comedy.
It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life between playing alongside professionals and meeting celebrities—we ultimately finished in the top 10 of 70 competitors.
Pebble Beach was amazing, but it was only the start of what was to come.
In 2011, I went to the PLAYer Advanced Academy in Richmond, Va. which is structured for participants who plan to play collegiate golf. The week gave me a sample of college life as we got to live in the University of Richmond’s campus, eat their dining and even be with some of their players on the golf team.
Our golf instruction and competition was designed to improve our skills and ready us for the next level. I was able to win the male tournament that week, but more importantly I met some of the most incredible people that I still keep in touch with today, including some of the Richmond players.
Later that year, I attended The First Tee Future Leaders Forum in Orlando, Fla. Hosted in Disney World, this event focused on life skills. Participants gained insight to advanced managing, team building and creative skills. We were given everything from career advice to diet advice. We also had the chance to meet and talk with World Golf Hall of Fame member and spokesperson for The First Tee Nine Healthy Habits Annika Sörenstam, among other business leaders.
Now as an alumnus, I find myself in the midst of transitioning roles. Where I had previously found myself as the receiver, it was time I start to do my part in giving back to the program.
When I entered the room for dinner, I ran into The First Tee Honorary Chairman President George W. Bush and golf legend Jack Nicklaus. I quickly realized I wasn’t speaking to an ordinary crowd.
After my speech, I introduced President Bush to the podium, and I’ll never forget him recognizing me in his own speech. Even as an alumnus, I had the chance to meet a former United States president, as well as meet a legend of the game in Jack Nicklaus.
Just this past year I gave another speech at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club. The junior tournament invites the world’s best 50 juniors to compete and play alongside some of The First Tee’s participants. There I met up with Jack Nicklaus again, proving that lightning can strike the same place twice.
The speeches were a nice way of giving back, but last summer I found a more personal approach. I worked at my home chapter at The First Tee of Augusta where I helped with summer camps, mentored participants, and worked behind the desk.
All of this brings me to today and my role as an intern at The First Tee home office. It is a big difference from working with my local chapter to trying to have a national impact, but there are similarities. I have found a sense of family at the home office that resembles my home chapter. This consistency is a reminder of the impact both places are trying to make.
I always keep in mind all that I have benefited from The First Tee in hopes that I can return the favor in some small way in my role as an intern.