The Faces of First Tee: Our Year In Review

Categories: Blog

“Being a member of First Tee for over nine years, I have been able to learn not only how to trust myself and my ideas, but also to explore ideas outside of the box, beyond my normal limits. The First Tee empowered me to be a power of good for the rest of my life.” – Christian Cargile, The First Tee of Greater Houston

What does a typical First Tee participant look like? With over 150 chapters around the world, every participant looks and sounds very different, each bringing their own personal flair to our First Tee family and the game of golf. But one thing they all have in common are the values instilled through our programs. These values, provide youth with a framework for their behavior and character that guides them toward success no matter where they are.

It’s an honor that our programs help shape and frame the lives of so many youth around the world. To ensure that any student can participate, we offer affordable lessons and financial assistance to anyone in need. With your help we can continue those efforts, and ask that you think of First Tee for your #GivingTuesday nonprofit of choice. Each year, our coaches and staff have the opportunity to work with and mentor thousands of amazing youth all across the country, and that is only possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters. As the largest day for giving and the kickoff of end of year giving, any gift you make on GivingTuesday would help support and develop our programs for the new year.

As 2019 comes to a close, there are several First Tee participants whose dedication and hard work have inspired them to make changes at home, in school, or in their community. In honor of that perseverance, we’d like to highlight seven youth that were chosen to compete in the 2019 PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach. Every day we’re inspired by their abilities on and off the golf course, and with your support we can continue this impact around the world. 

Shani Waite poses by the water with her pro golf partner at Pebble BeachShani Waite

A member of the First Tee of Los Angeles, Shani Waite, a senior in high school has been participating in First Tee programs since she was 6 years old. When she first came to First Tee, she was a quiet, introverted child. She was only a little girl when her younger sister passed away, which caused her to withdraw from much of the world. It was a difficult time for Shani, but through working with First Tee, she was able to open up and become more confident. As she grew older, Shani grew into a talented and driven young woman who is as capable off the golf course as she is on it. She has competed in many tournaments over the years in addition to being a Girl Scout and an honor student, and she aspires to join the LPGA someday.

Evan Koutsopetras

Evan Koutsopetras swinging a golf club by the water on the 18th holeFifteen-year-old Evan Koutsopetras was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of three years old, and didn’t start talking until six months after his diagnosis. His golf career began at the age of six when his parents enrolled him in First Tee of Metropolitan New York and he’s excelled in our programs ever since. By working with First Tee he was able to learn valuable life lessons that he is able to apply to all areas of life for long-term success. Currently playing No. 1 on his high school’s golf team, Evan’s passion and hard work has led him to become an honor student and an Eagle Scout.

Kayli Lucas

At seventeen, Kayli Lucas has been hooked on the game of golf since her first lesson. Originally born in China, she was adopted by her mother after being found outside of a factory in Nanjing. As a member of First Tee of Tennessee, she has shown time and time again that she is willing to invest the time and effort it takes to get better. Kayli was also one of nine First Tee participants who spent a day with six-time major champion Nick Faldo in the CoBank Peak Performers in Los Angeles. She currently plays on her high school golf team, and her best score is 2-over par for 18 holes. 

Jamozzy Skenandore

Jamozzy Skenandore, 17, first joined First Tee of Northeast Wisconsin when he was nine years old. With a handicap index of 0.1, Jamozzy is a Native American and a member of the Oneida nation in Wisconsin. Jamozzy is a hard worker and does not let adversity stop him. He was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and faced an array of difficulties as a result, but Jamozzy stayed strong and adapted thanks to the lessons he learned working with his local First Tee. He currently plays on his high school golf team and he is a standout bowler. 

Stephany Barbosa

Seventeen-year-old Stephany Barbosa’s first golf lessons came from her father. A Mexican immigrant, her father taught himself to play golf so he could coach his daughter to support her interests. Eventually, she came to be a member of First Tee of Greater Dallas and developed a 0.8 handicap through hard work and dedication. Though she faced a period of uncertainty early on in high school, she was able to navigate this period with guidance from her coaches and staff at the First Tee. Currently, Stephany is looking at colleges, and though she does not plan to play professionally, she still wants golf to be a part of her life. 

Luke and Jackson Boldt

At the age of four, identical twins Luke and Jackson Boldt were regulars at First Tee of Coastal Carolinas. Golf has been a part of their life for longer than they can remember. In a devastating turn of events, the Boldts went through a tragic car accident that resulted in the death of their grandparents and severe injuries for the boys. Luke and Jack used golf as a way to recover from their accident. The two founded the “Buddy Tee” program at First Tee of Coastal Carolinas which is focused on teaching adaptive golf to children with disabilities. Currently seniors in high school, Luke’s goal is to play golf professionally while Jack has plans to try out for the rodeo team at North Carolina State.

How to Help Fund the Future

Each of the young men and women above have incredible stories, and we are proud that First Tee was able to be a part of their journey. They have all been able to benefit from the skills and lessons that they have learned at their First Tee location. With your support, we are able to make a difference in the lives of young people across America. You can help fund the future and transform the lives of even more youth when you include First Tee in your end of year giving. Join the movement December 3rd and donate for GivingTuesday. You can also make a tax deductible donation by midnight December 31st. Making a tax-deductible donation to First Tee helps us introduce the game of golf to youth across America and provide them a safe haven with structure, direction, and mentorship.

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