At The First Tee, we strive to provide kids with opportunities that will not only improve their skills in golf but also put them on a path to succeed in life. Like many alumni of The First Tee, these type of opportunities have impacted 22-year-old Elsa Diaz in a big way. An alumna from The First Tee of Greater San Antonio, Elsa joined the program at the age of nine and quickly found a golf family who prepared her for the experience she is about to begin.
Currently playing college golf at the University of Richmond, Elsa recently received an exemption to play in the Kingsmill Championship, a LPGA Tour event. We asked her to tell us about her time at The First Tee and how she is preparing for this unforgettable opportunity.
Tell us about your time in The First Tee
I started at The First Tee of Greater San Antonio when I was nine years old and it became a second home for me and my two older siblings, Sara and Adolfo, until we graduated from the program. When I think about my time at The First Tee, I remember it as a place of opportunity, friendships, a playground and where we could dream big.
The First Tee gave my family and me opportunities that we could’ve never imagined experiencing anywhere else. Both my sister and I played alongside PGA TOUR Champions players at PURE Insurance Open at Pebble Beach on separate occasions. I never thought I would, but I got a chance to meet my golfing idols: Annika Sörenstam and Lorena Ochoa.
With all these opportunities my siblings and I had the chance to explore so many different parts of life and learned more about ourselves and who we wanted to be in the future. The First Tee was a place where I loved to be because it was a place where I could be myself but also grow as a person while having fun. We learned life lessons through the game of golf and formed new friendships through every session, even during the two-hand touch football games we would play after classes. The First Tee was a place that let me be a kid full of joy a laughter and I will forever be grateful that this program is part of my life.
How did The First Tee prepare you for your time in college and in playing college golf?
The national opportunities The First Tee offers, like going to leadership academies and player forums, are the experiences that better prepared me for college and college golf. Having the chance to travel somewhere new without your parents and meet participants from across the country made me a more open-minded individual and I always felt a sense of growth after I came home. When I came to college, I found it easy to make new friends and the challenge of being so far away from home did not seem as hard because of those core principles I had been taught through my parents and the program.
The national opportunities also taught me that when we have a dream, a goal, or an opportunity presented to us we should chase after it. I remember the day my program director told me about The First Tee Speed Golf Championship and told me that I should attempt it. I trained for the event as much as I could and was flown to Richmond, Virginia to compete in the championship. Little did I know I would end up winning the event, have a college coach watch me win it and later offer me a full four-year golf scholarship to the University of Richmond! I accepted it and have spent the last four years earning my business marketing degree, and have been having the time of my life.
Going into the Kingsmill Championship, what do you hope to gain and experience from this opportunity?
During the Kingsmill Championship, I hope to gain experience and knowledge on how it feels to play next to the best women golfers in the world. I can’t wait to know what that adrenaline and excitement will feel like and to finally be competing in the dream that I so long ago envisioned when I was 15 years old. Playing in this event will let me know where my strengths and weaknesses are so that I can compete, join them on tour, and play against the best in the world. I am very excited because it’s going to be a test of my character and mental game. I know its going to be hard to keep the excitement and nerves down, but hopefully, as soon I hit that first shot I’ll remember all those lessons from The First Tee I learned so long ago.
What are your future career and golf goals?
My future career and golf goals is to play full time on the LPGA Tour. Now that I have completed my education at the University of Richmond, I have my mind set on becoming a full time golfer, grow the game, especially women golf, and serve as a representative of brands and organizations.
If you could give one piece of advice to participants at The First Tee hoping to pursue a college golf, what would it be?
One piece of advice that I would give a The First Tee participant who is pursuing college golf would be to dream big and in the pursuit of doing it try everything the program has to offer. I think The First Tee does a great job of focusing on making us well-rounded individuals, not just golfers. They teach us that giving back is actually a benefit to ourselves, to excel in academics, choosing healthy habits, improving our social skills and most importantly how to dream and set goals. Even if it’s not golf-related, there is so much the program can give you that you can later apply to your own golf game. It seems to me that even though I am a golfer and I am playing golf, it was all the life lessons I learned while not playing golf that got me where I am headed to today.
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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!