What does it take to be a volunteer? It takes heart. And William “Billy” Brent has that and so much more when it comes to volunteering at The First Tee of Northwest Florida.
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” — Elizabeth Andrew
Brent was recently recognized as The First Tee’s 2017 George H.W. Bush Shell Oil Volunteer of the Year during our bi-annual Network Meeting. A prestigious honor as The First Tee hails more than 24,000 volunteers. Executive Director Marty Stanovich shares why Brent is deserving of this recognition.
William “Billy” Brent has been a volunteer with The First Tee of Northwest Florida since the day we opened the doors at our first programming site, Osceola Golf Course—14 years ago this year. But he is much more than just a volunteer—he has been a Board Member, an Annual Donor, Mentoring Program Director and a friend to so many young people inside The First Tee and outside as well—and has privately funded multiple college scholarships for deserving at-need students from our area.
In his personal life, “Coach Billy” is a model for what we would hope our children would grow up to become. He began his adult life by joining the U.S. Army and serving with honor and distinction in Vietnam. Through his professional career he has been an area manager for Goodyear, a District Manager of the Pensacola News Journal and a truly talented and accomplished golfer in his own right, he played professional golf for five very successful years. Experienced as a caddy as well, he has long been involved in minority and junior golf circles as a teacher and mentor with the Par Four Golf Club.
While volunteering for us in the early days, he still worked 40 hours per week as an IT Specialist/Computer Programmer for the U.S. Government at Naval Air Station Pensacola—but he always made time after work and on the weekends for The First Tee of Northwest Florida. He has never taken a dime for his teaching; in fact, he has spent a great deal of his own money in support of our programs and our juniors and continues to do so even to the present day.
Following our chapter’s founding in 2004, he immediately stepped forward and volunteered his support and over the course of the last five years he has never missed a class. Recently, after playing in a weekend golf tournament out of state, he drove through the night and early morning back to Pensacola to attend a voluntary day-long coach training session—and then spent two hours that afternoon teaching and mentoring our participants. Such is his passion for The First Tee and for our junior golfers.
Coach Billy is a crowd favorite, always teaching with conviction and enthusiasm, with a great smile and animated personality. He truly has a unique gift: To always be able to communicate on the level of his students, no matter their age, ability or walk of life. A parent who has had two children in the program recently sent me a text message that simply said: “Coach Billy is The Man.” I couldn’t agree more, hence his nomination as our Volunteer of the Year.