Sara Scarlett's Message to Junior Golfers: Be Safe and Smart in the Golf Cart

Categories: I am the First Tee, Life Skills
Sara Scarlett and Champions Tour player Jerry Pate pose for a photo during the second round of the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach at Del Monte Golf Club on July 9, 2011 in Monterey, Calif.
Sara Scarlett and Champions Tour player Jerry Pate pose for a photo during the second round of the 2011 Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach at Del Monte Golf Club.

Meet Sara Scarlett–she is a stand-out alumna and junior golfer from The First Tee of Greater Sacramento with a passion for golf cart safety.

After attending The First Tee Outstanding Participant & Leadership Summit in 2013, Sara applied the leadership and presentation skills she learned to help further spread the mission of Cart Smarts–a program she co-founded to help promote golf cart safety to everyone, especially junior golfers.

In 2013, The First Tee’s biennial Network Meeting launched the debut of The First Tee Outstanding Participant & Leadership Summit. Thirty-two teenagers from across the nation were selected to participate in this educational event created to foster opportunities for young people to develop and hone the skills needed to become leaders and mentors in their chapters, schools and communities.

Through educational workshops, the candidates developed plans for leading a meaningful service project in their communities, providing a way to apply the skills and concepts learned at the three-day summit.

Below, Sara shares why Cart Smarts was founded and why its mission applies to everyone who rides in a golf cart–not just golfers.

 by Sara Scarlett, alumna of
The First Tee of Greater Sacramento and
sophomore on the University of Texas golf team

Bill Dougherty
Bill Dougherty

In 2005, a close family friend, Bill Dougherty, was being driven to the driving range to watch his sons play in the club championship at our home course. There was a bag between the driver and him. When they stopped to get out of the cart, the bag fell onto the gas pedal, causing the cart to speed forward. It hit Mr. Dougherty and ran over him. Sadly, he did not survive his injuries.

(L-R) The First Tee participant Sara Scarlett with Mia Dougherty and Will Scarlett
(L-R) The First Tee participant Sara Scarlett with Mia Dougherty and Will Scarlett

Bill was an avid golfer and an advocate for junior golf. As his granddaughter, Mia, my brother, Will, and I started playing in junior tournaments, we realized that improper use of golf carts was constantly happening. Thus, in his memory, we developed Cart Smarts, a program that promotes golf cart safety to everyone, especially junior golfers.

Cart Smarts highlights the Do’s and Don’ts when operating a motorized golf car. With nearly 1,000 Americans injured each month in golf cart-related accidents, we are committed to helping reduce the number of injuries, thus saving lives, too.

Through our informational brochure and the speeches we give before local tournaments through The First Tee and other organizations, we hope to protect lives on the golf course. I have been amazed by how many people approach me to talk about golf cart accidents they have been involved in: it really can happen to anyone, not just golfers.

Sara Scarlett community project 1
Dennis Walters and his dog, Bucky, at The First Tee of Greater Sacramento

As the youngest of my co-founders, I have continued the legacy of Cart Smarts. For example, before The Dennis Walters Golf Show came to my chapter, I spoke to the audience about golf cart safety. This topic was especially meaningful because Mr. Walters (who is also an official spokesperson for The First Tee) was injured in a golf cart accident 35 years ago that left him a paraplegic.

We also host the annual Bill Dougherty Memorial Junior Golf Tournament. The tournament is run completely “cart smart”: no juniors ride on the back of carts or pull their pushcarts along the side of the cart or drive if they are under the age of 16.

Giving talks on the topic of golf cart safety and running this tournament are just a couple of ways that I can honor Mr. Dougherty, a man who loved the game of golf more than anyone I have ever met. I hope to spread the word about Cart Smarts to The First Tee chapters in order to have more juniors take the pledge to be safe and smart in the cart.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *