The First Tee is a developmental organization dedicated to helping youth build character through the game of golf. Last month, two members from The First Tee of Central Coast got an amazing and exclusive opportunity.
At The First Tee headquarters in Boise, Idaho July 24-29, 16-year-old Claire Alford of Santa Maria and 15-year-old Jacob Zakaria of San Luis Obispo were selected to attend the Joe Louis Barrow Life Skills and Leadership Academy. They were just two of under 100 teenagers nationwide to receive an invitation.
"Not only did the coaches teach us golf skills, giving us drills, helping us with our swings in the short time we had there, but everything we did tied back to leadership," Alford said.
"It was cool meeting all of the other First Tee participants from around the nation and seeing how everyone is different from where they live," Zakaria added.
It wasn’t just a lucky selection for Claire and Jacob. The First Tee of Central Coast program director Billy Gibbs says the two young golfers earned their trips to Boise.
"You know, they're always volunteering for something," Gibbs said. "They're just great people. They have a passion for life and the game of golf, so it was easy."
Claire, a soon-to-be junior at Righetti High School, has been active with The First Tee for over five years, and she’s loved learning how to be successful on and off the course.
"Everything they teach us here, it goes so much further than golf. They teach us that, at the end of the day, you want to be a good golfer, but what's more important is that you're a good person," Alford explained. "You know, I'm just so grateful for my First Tee family."
Jacob will be a sophomore at San Luis Obispo High School. He's been around The First Tee program for almost 10 years. Golf has been an important part of his life since he was a little boy.
"Both of my older brothers played, and they were both in First Tee and had great opportunities to play on the high school team," Zakaria said. "I just followed in their footsteps."
Claire's First Tee journey is just getting started. At the end September, she'll represent The First Tee of Central Coast at the 2019 PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach alongside 77 other First Tee members. Each golfer will be paired with a PGA Tour champion. For Claire, it's the opportunity of a lifetime.
"They have so many more years of knowledge, and I'm really excited to learn from them," Alford said. "They know what it's like out on the course. They can teach me so much about the physical game, my swing, mental game, and just the day-to-day. They've seen the game, and they know it well."
The 16th annual event runs from September 24-29 and will be aired worldwide on Golf Channel.