When Jessica Kent from The First Tee of Greater Seattle was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease, she didn’t give up. Jessica looked to the life skills she learned on the golf course to persevere. This is her story, which she shared with members of Congress at the 2016 Congressional Breakfast:
“To a person who has never played golf, it would seem ridiculous to be told that this sport is the closest game to the game we call life. Could hitting a small white ball through fields of grass into a four-inch hole build character, inspire confidence, and potentially even save a life? The answer is yes, it can…and it has.
I was diagnosed with polyarteritis nodosa, a rare autoimmune disease that results from blood vessel inflammation causing injury to organ systems. Like golf, living with an autoimmune condition has become a work in progress, pushing my limits, and requiring me to use all the life skills The First Tee has taught me.
My future lay uncertain, but The First Tee’s acronym S.T.A.R. is ingrained in me, providing a foundation for success to execute every shot and become a stronger player.
In STAR, S is for Stop: Settle your emotions. Like golf, I have to “play the ball as it lies,” but my attitude towards the challenge is in my hands. The autoimmune condition can rule my life, or I can conquer it.
T, Think: Remind yourself of your go-to team and goal. During The First Tee Outstanding Participant Summit, I listened as leaders emphasized the importance of having a Go-to Team to help them through every obstacle. With my Go-to Team of doctors, I knew they had my back monitoring my progress.
A, Anticipate: Envision how you will execute your shot and the path to your target. Knowing each hole is like a day, some better than others, I decided to keep ahead of school assignments determined to remain a full-time student.
R, Respond: Swing! In a match there are no “gimmes” because success comes from hard work. The First Tee taught me that a goal-ladder provides the outline, but I am responsible for persevering and having the confidence to accomplish my goal.
Today, I am stronger and have regained strength to play golf, make dance tryouts and receive admission into the Business Honors Program at the University of Washington by raising my GPA from a 3.36 to a 3.75.
As an alumna and assistant coach of The First Tee, I am honored by every opportunity to share the empowering life lessons and core values. My story is just one of the millions of other stories, so I hope you leave feeling empowered because you are providing youth with the opportunity to build character, learn life enhancing values and make healthy choices through The First Tee and the game of golf.”