At The First Tee, core values like perseverance and confidence are key in not only teaching golf but the life skills that come with it. These two values are no stranger to nineteen-year-old Norman Xiong. An alumnus of The First Tee of San Diego, Norman joined the program at the age of five when his family moved to the states from Guam to pursue Norman’s passion for the game. Norman’s hard work paid off as he recently played in the Farmers Insurance Open after being granted an exemption to play in the PGA TOUR event.
We asked Norman, who is currently playing college golf at the University of Oregon, to tell us about his time at The First Tee and what it was like to play in the PGA tournament.
1) Tell us about your time at The First Tee.
I started at the First Tee at the age of 6. The program became a second home for me as I grew through elementary school. It was a place I could go and learn about myself, others, do my homework, and learn many life skills early in life. It’s also a place I’ve met some of my best friends. For example, I met Donald Kay in Par class when I was 6 years old. Now 13 years later, Donald and I are roommates and play together at Oregon. I can say without a doubt that my life has been greatly improved because of The First Tee program.
2) Did Your experience at The First Tee influence your decision to play college golf?
Growing up at The First Tee, college was always something I knew I would do. There was talk with people around golf that I may just turn pro after high school. But I always knew college was something I wanted to experience.
My situation starting at Oregon was unique. I graduated high school early and began at Oregon mid-school year. It was a tough transition to begin something as new as college when all the other freshmen were already in the rhythm of things. During these challenges, I relied even more on the life skills I learned at The First Tee. Skills like meeting someone new, goal setting, and time management were all key in making the transition as smooth as possible.
I absolutely love being a Duck and going to school at Oregon. Going there was the perfect decision for me and I’m still not done learning.
3) What were your thoughts going into the Farmers Insurance Open and playing at such a professional level?
My family had a goal for me to play in one PGA TOUR event before I considered turning pro. Hearing that I got into the Farmers Insurance Open and my first PGA TOUR event would be in my hometown was something I still can’t believe happened. Especially with the ties with charitable giving from the Farmers and The First Tee of San Diego.
My biggest goals for the event were to have fun, gain experience, and see where I needed to improve my game to be eventually ready for the PGA TOUR. Just like I prepared for college well ahead of time, preparing for the PGA TOUR is something I want to equally be ready for. The Farmers in a sense was like visiting colleges in high school. To see how it looked and felt so I could become comfortable early.
4) Do you have any advice for participants at The First Tee who want to pursue college golf and/or play at the professional level?
The biggest bit of advice I would have for anyone who wants to pursue college golf is the importance of school. I was around a lot of talented golfers who thought their golf game would make it so their grades were not as important. Unfortunately, they learned the hard way that what you do in the classroom is equally weighted as what you do on the golf course. Those golfers, unfortunately, didn’t get to go to their dream schools.
For their golf game, I would always stress to enjoy the game, not the rewards. At the end of the day it’s a game, and you’ll never be your best if you don’t love it.
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With more than 1,200 locations, The First Tee offers programs to youth from all backgrounds—no golf experience needed! If you know a young person who has an interest in golf, visit our location map to find a local chapter!