It’s every junior golfer’s dream to spend a week of their summer in the beautiful San Diego, attending a golf academy and taking in the local sights!
This year, 96 teen golfers from 88 unique chapters across the network attended The First Tee Life Skills & Leadership Academy–-a competitive, prestigious national opportunity that teaches character education and leadership instruction through The First Tee Life Skills Experience curriculum delivered by The First Tee home office staff and chapter coaches from across the country.
This July, The First Tee of San Diego, Sycuan Golf Resort and San Diego State University hosted the The First Tee Life Skills & Leadership Academy where teen golfers learned about life skills such as planning and decision-making, self-management and interpersonal skills.
Michael Mahlberg, a participant from The First Tee of Greater Sacramento, was among the 96 participants selected for this incredible experience. Below, Michael answers questions about what he learned during the week and how he can put the teachings into practice on and off the golf course.
Q&A with Michael Mahlberg
Describe what attending the event meant to you?
When I heard that I was able to apply for The First Tee Life Skills & Leadership Academy this year I was ecstatic! This is an event I have heard a lot of great things about over the years.
Once I found out I was selected for this event, I was counting down the days until I left! Being able to go to any national opportunity for The First Tee is great, but this one is the real deal.
The First Tee Life Skills & Leadership Academy far exceeded my expectations. I knew I was going to have an amazing time and was going to learn a lot of great things, but to have this much fun and to learn as much as I did in this short time frame is mind-boggling.
Was there anything you learned that surprised you?
I learned so much at this academy, but the one thing that surprised me was that I learned more about myself as a leader and golfer.
I was recently elected to be my school’s Student Body President. In order to be in this position you have to be a leader and relate well to others. At this academy I realized that I am confident. In addition to being one of The First Tee Nine Core Values, confidence is one of the most important leadership traits. If you are not confident in what you do or are about to do, then others won’t follow.
I learned so much from the academy coaches that will help me be a better golfer. For instance, they told me that routine is everything. You need to have the same routine for every shot no matter the distance. They told us to practice with a purpose and routine. Without a routine, if you’re just hitting golf balls to hit golf balls, what does that teach you come tournament time?
Some of the coaches also helped me with my putting. They told me to focus more on my breathing when putting and stay more relaxed over a putt when you’re about to pull the trigger.
Since then, I have been playing some really good golf and have been practicing with a purpose every day. The things they taught me will stick with me through the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach this year and on.
Were there any unique coaching activities that helped improve your game?
One day we went to The First Tee of San Diego’s golf course. The course is an all par 3, 18-hole golf course. When we got there, they put us in different stations. One group could play the course, another worked on putting, and another practiced distance control with one club.
One unique activity we did was hitting fake lizards and frogs out of a bunker. There were targets on the green, and we had to hit a frog into one target and the lizard into another farther target. This was different because it taught us distance control without golf balls. It also taught us judgment, another one of the Nine Core Values. We had to adapt to the distance changes of this odd object rather then a golf ball.
This activity gave me more confidence hitting out of the bunker. I had to focus more on the frog or lizard as well as where I had to hit the sand to get it to the target. Now when I’m on the golf course and have a sand shot, I just imagine the ball as a frog or lizard and hit it closer to the hole.
What were some of the off-course excursions the group experienced?
We were able to do some really cool things during this trip! Including:
- A beach clean-up group community project
- Visiting the headquarters of TaylorMade-addidas Golf (a Trustee of The First Tee)
- A tour of the USS Carl Vinson
- A trip to the San Diego Zoo
This academy was a great learning experience from sun up to sun down. As with the other junior golf events I have been lucky enough to attend through The First Tee, I learned a lot of great things that will help me on the course and throughout life. Thank you for such an awesome opportunity!