First Tee of Greenville: Life’s Building Blocks Taught from a Golf Course

Do you remember the first sport you learned? Was it in your backyard, at school, or at a youth center? For 500 children across Greenville County, it just might be at The First Tee of Greenville.

The First Tee is a junior golf organization that introduces the game of golf to youth ages 8-18. The Greenville chapter’s 17 acre-course adjacent to the Salvation Army’s Boys and Girls Club bustles with young players slinging golf bags and carrying clubs to their tees on any given weekday after school. The children are not only mentored by volunteer coaches on the game of golf, they are also taught values inherent in the sport, such as self-management, goal-setting, and interpersonal skills which extend beyond the golf course and are intended to develop these young players into the successful leaders of tomorrow.

Greenville native and high school freshman Ashley Cznarecki is finishing her final two months as an Eagle before advancing to the last of four levels which include Par, Birdie, Eagle, and Ace in their ranking order. Involved since the age of seven, Ashley reflects on all of the skills she has acquired as an Eagle.

“I have learned how to build positive relationships, and set goals for myself,” Ashley says. “One goal I now have for myself is to play tournament golf. First Tee gave me the confidence to continue playing when I move on to college.”

In each level, Ashley was taught different character-building skills in addition to First Tee’s 9 Core Values—perseverance, responsibility, courtesy, judgment, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, competence, and respect. Before moving up to the final level, Ashley looks back to two of The First Tee’s 9 Core Values that have changed her life.

“Courtesy and respect have had a major impact on my life,” continues Ashley. “For example, I’ve learned that eye contact and handshakes show good character and help you build good communication.”

As an Eagle, Ashley also volunteers at a sports clinic, getting other kids introduced to The First Tee. She wants other kids to gain access to the sport like she did. “Along with teaching you how to play a lifelong sport, The First Tee is a lot of fun,” says Ashley. “It has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of other golfers and has taught me how to work with different kinds of people. The First Tee is a great character building experience.”

Needless to say, Ashley and many other young players like her are “First Tee-ers” for life.

Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the United Way of Greenville County and the United Way Association of South Carolina.

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