2019 Life skills & leadership academy

boise, idaho

The Joe Louis Barrow Life Skills and Leadership Academy held at Boise State was a very memorable experience for all participants. This academy aided not only my golf skills, but also my leadership ability. Along with helping with life skills, we met lifelong friends from all across the United States. The chaperones and administration was very friendly and were always there to help you with anything you needed. Along with the chaperones and administration, the coaches helped us manage the course better, and learn new golf shots that are not required in our location. Overall, the Life Skills and Leadership academy was very educational and a experience I will not forget.

– cabot ellis


I have been a part of The First Tee program since I was 10, and I’m
now 15. Due to this great program, I have had the amazing opportunity to attend the Life Skills and
Leadership Academy out in Boise, Idaho. At this academy, I spent a week learning more about the game
of golf while bonding with people all over the country. My favorite parts of the entire week would be
the extracurricular activities we did after golf, such as bowling, yoga, and team-bonding. I also really
enjoyed getting to play with new friends and coaches every day, sharing stories about how we got into
The First Tee and the amazing opportunities we’ve had through this program. Above all, the best part
about the entire week was getting to stay up on the last night with all my new friends, just before
everyone had to leave for their flights. This academy was a great chance for me to learn how to step out
of my comfort zone by making lots of friends and having fun while learning more about the game of golf.

– Trinity hernandez


2018 Pebble beach pure insurance pro-am tournament

pebble beach, California 

Pebble Beach was the best week of my life! I played practice rounds Tuesday-Thursday at Poppy Hills and Pebble Beach and attended a special dinner each night. I had the opportunity to socialize with PGA TourChampions Players, influential people, and meet 80 other First Tee participants who were selected from around the country. On Tuesday’s dinner I found out that my pro was Stephen Ames. At the Legends and Leaders dinner on Wednesday, I met Amy Alcott, Tom Watson, Stephen Ames, and listened to nine different motivational speakers. Friday was the first day of the tournament and it definitely exceeded my expectations – my game was sharp at Poppy Hills and in a best ball format. At the end of the first day, Stephen and I were T2 at -7. That night we had a private concert with Train which was amazing!

The second day of the tournament I played Pebble Beach and we finished at -11, making the cut and at T3 heading into Sunday. I was interviewed live by The Golf Channel, which was nerve-racking but a great experience. Sunday I started off the day with a chip in eagle on #2 at Pebble Beach! I finished T1 with nine birdies and an eagle throughout the week to finish at -17. My goal was just to make the cut, so finishing T1 was a dream come true! The week was so much fun and my favorite parts of it were the support I got from people watching me, the spectacular views at Pebble Beach, and playing with Stephen Ames. He was a fun partner and I learned a lot about how he approaches tournament golf by watching how he carries himself after bad shots. I’m so grateful for this opportunity the First Tee gave me!

– Caroline Wales


2018 life skills & leadership academy

East Lansing, Michigan 

Coach Dustin Smith, Brandon LaFond and Karla GarciaMy experience at Michigan was one of the best. Every single person that was there was really nice and caring. From the moment I got there, the staff and even the students were helping each other. I was so honored to attend The Life Skills and Leadership Academy because I got the chance to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people. In the beginning, I was terrified because I did not know anyone besides coach Dustin and the other participant from the Coachella Valley, Brandon. But I also knew that I was not the only one who did not know anyone. All of the participants had some things in common. For example, we all were from different First Tee chapters, we all played golf, and we were all there to represent our chapter and learn new things that we could take back and teach the kids from our chapters. 

I am thankful for being part of this Academy. I had so much fun. I learned so many things from the golf, the seminars, the participants and coaches I met, and the trips that we took. One of my favorite activities was when we attended The Lion King. I was impressed with the play. The whole academy was amazing. I was part of the yellow group, and the coaches told us that by the end of the week we were going to call each other family and we did. We would play golf, dance, sing, and we even made our own cheers. Despite the academy being over, I still stay in contact with the new friends that I made. Also, it was a great opportunity because I got to experience what living in an actual university feels like. It gave me another reason to work hard in school so I can attend a nice university.



2018 Life skills & Leadership academy

East Lansing, Michigan

When I found out that I was selected to go to the Life Skills and Leadership Academy, I was nervous because this was new to me. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to make friends because of how shy I am, but this Michigan Trip was totally different. I immediately made many friends from around the United States, and they were all just like me, goofy, weird, and fun. The chaperones and coaches were amazing, whenever I needed help exploring or help with my golf game, they were always there to help, and it was ACTUAL help. I loved the fact we got to golf every day with a different coach and new participants, I got to compare my skill level with theirs, I was a bit better(not really).

During our time in the dorms, we got to hang out, play pool, eat, play basketball, there were just so many things we could do. We got to go to the cafeteria 2-3 times a day, and the cafeteria there is the biggest non-military cafeteria in the United States, wow! And not only was the cafeteria cool, but the food they served was like eating in heaven. They had pizza, burgers, salad, stir-fry, western, milk, ice-cream, pancakes, anything you could imagine. During my time I loved to play pool, and even though I wasn’t good no-one would make fun of me. This was just one of the many reasons I loved this trip, everyone was so kind and respectful. 

What I liked most about this, was the fact I wouldn’t be able to these kinds of things without Coach Dustin. He knows I’m shy, and he pushes me to do these things, trying his best to break my nervousness, and I think he did with this trip. I was loud, experiencing everything, and just enjoying myself. So I just want to say thank you so much Coach Dustin for giving me this opportunity, this was the best trip I’ve ever been on.

– Brandon Lafond


2017 Life skills & Leadership academy

East Lansing, Michigan

I’d like to thank the First Tee of the Coachella Valley for sending me to the Leadership Academy at Michigan State University.  It was truly a great experience.  I had the opportunity to meet new people from all over the country. It was a great learning experience to be able to work with coaches from different places. Living in a dorm and spending time on the university campus was really neat!  I also enjoyed playing some different courses.

One of my favorite parts about the academy was the people I got to meet, I made many new friends. I hope to continue interacting with the participants I met through social media. Having activities at night was a great way to bond with them. I liked meeting different coaches and learning from them both on the course and in the classes. They were very positive and we got to practice fun drills and games. The classes were interesting.  I think what they talked about will be something I can use in the future. We learned about financial literacy and planning for the future. A really neat part of the academy was being on a college campus. The nighttime activities were really fun. We got to go bowling, mini golf on a real course, go to a baseball game, and an all night lock in.

The courses we played were nice. We had the opportunity to play and practice at the facility of the Michigan State Golf Team. I liked how we were able to practice and play each day. This gave me the opportunity to practice my skills before going on the course or practicing the skills I saw I needed to work on after playing.  Being able to practice and play for three days and then getting the chance to show my hard work at the tournament was really helpful.  I ended up shooting my best score- 77! I also liked how each day we played with a different group of people on the course.  I enjoyed being in our color groups because we got to spend time with and bond with a smaller group. 

– Caroline wales


2017 Pebble beach pure insurance pro-am tournament

Pebble Beach, California

Palm Desert High Girls Golf Team members, Dana Condon and Madison Rincon, had the honor to play and compete in the 2017 Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament this past fall. The newly-named PURE Insurance Championship brings together the legends of the game with top juniors from The First Tee. The tournament is an official PGA TOUR Champions Event and is the first of its kind in which junior golfers from The First Tee play alongside PGA TOUR Champions players, as well as amateurs. They compete for the pro-junior title at the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course.

Rincon and Condon were 2 of 81 First Tee members across the country to compete in the three-day event and after day two, were 2 of 23 juniors to make the final cut. It was an opportunity of a lifetime as both were paired with a PGA Pro and the event was internationally televised on Golf Channel. The girls played their own ball and then combined their scores with the pro to determine the final score. Dana Condon played with Jerry Kelly who finished 14-under to tie for 2nd and Madison Rincon played with Billy Mayfair who finished 7-under to tie for 10th.

“I played with Billy Mayfair. I will always remember the strategies that he used, the on course experience and what the pros’ mental approach to the golf game is.” -Madison Rincon

“I played with Jerry Kelly and he was a great mentor to me. Having those cameras on you, the tee shot pressure, and having people watch you is great experience.” – Dana Condon 


2017 Life skills & Leadership academy

East Lansing, Michigan

2017 Golf Preparatory Academy

Palm Beach, Florida

Having the opportunity to travel not only to West Palm Beach Florida, but Michigan State University has been amazing experiences that I will never forget. The First Tee has so many wonderful opportunities for participants to take advantage of, and has truly benefited me both on and off the golf course.

The first academy I had the chance of attending was College Prep. This was a week long camp hosted at Keiser University in Florida for teens to discover and learn about the life of collegiate athletes. There were multiple 18 hole rounds where players had to keep their physical and mental games strong. In addition to this, we had the opportunity to visit the Florida Institute of Performance and workout, an additional way to help boost our stamina on the course. Fun team building activities were also put in place, which helped our small group bond and form amazing relationships between fellow competitors and coaches. We played at the Bear’s Club, Seagate Country Club, Palm Beach Par-3, Jupiter Hills and even had the chance to visit the ESPN station nearby. It was a super busy, but fun week. Daily reflections, purposeful practice and drills helped raise my game to a higher echelon of golf during this academy, making me more comfortable and excited to play college golf.

The Leadership Academy in Michigan included many rounds of golf, but focused more on how to become a great leader in all aspects of life. This was an amazing experience for me to improve my interpersonal skills and build my confidence as a student, athlete and volunteer coach. The RISE Leadership seminar, 220 Youth Leadership summit and Financial Literacy presentation all helped contribute to improving my social development. These speeches also allowed me to start thinking about about my future and how I can make a positive impact on the people around me. During the week I had the opportunity to play at Forest Akers Golf Course (owned by Michigan State) and Walnut Hills Golf Club. Our group also had a little fun by bowling at Spartan Lanes on the Michigan State campus, attending a Lansing Lugnuts Baseball Game and played at the Little Hawk Putting Course.

The Life Skills and Leadership Academy was an amazing way to meet First Tee participants from different chapters and now I am able to connect and share ideas with friends from across the United States. Both academies were jammed-pack with fun activities and I appreciate how well they were run. I enjoyed both equally in every aspect, from practicing difficult shots on the course, to discussions with our group leaders on how our voice has the ability to impact the communities around us.

-dana condon


2016 life skills & leadership academy

Blaine, Minnesota 

Last week Madison Rincon joined 90 juniors from The First Tee chapters across the country in Blaine, Minnesota for the National Life Skills and Leadership Academy. Not only was she provided opportunities to develop her golf skills, but was given tools to become a leader on and off the course. Upon arrival to Minnesota, Madison was assigned roommates at the National Sports Center and color groups, as she would work in teams for the rest of the week. For a portion of each day, groups worked with The First Tee golf coaches to assess their skills, implement fun activities to aid in improvement and then enjoyed on course team challenges at the White Bear Yacht Club, a top facility in Minnesota. 

Madison had the opportunity to expand her knowledge of the golf business. This included engaging in specialized on course tutorials with Toro Company where she learned about golf course irrigation, how to cut fairways and greens, and the different types of machinery necessary to maintain a golf course facility. Local turf grass specialist put participants to the test, teaching participants how to tell the difference between various strands of grass and then asking them to identify grass types from a container garden. The last golf tutorial stop was with the marketing division of PGA TOUR Superstore where the group learned the ins and outs of marketing in golf retail. Nightly, all participants, The First Tee instructors and staff were able to come together for fun activities including Ice Skating, pick up soccer, board games and other team building activities. Madison made tons of new friends from across the network, and positively represented our chapter and their communities on the national stage.

“I had the opportunity to travel to Minnesota to attend a Life Skills and Leadership Academy, which was one of the best experiences of my life.” – Madison Rincon 


2014 First tee nature valley open at pebble beach

Pebble beach, california

The First Tee of The Coachella Valley sent their first participant, Will McMahon, to compete in the 2014 First Tee Nature Valley Open at Pebble Beach. Will was selected by a national panel of judges who evaluated playing ability and comprehension of the life skills and character education learned through their involvement with The First Tee. With more than 150 applications that were submitted, McMahon was one of 80 participants selected. He was paired with Hale Irwin, one of the one of the world’s leading golfers from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. He is one of the few players in history to win three U.S. Opens, becoming the oldest ever U.S. Open champion in 1990 at the age of 45. As a senior golfer, Irwin ranks first all-time in PGA Tour Champions victories.

“It is an honor to be the first participant selected from the Coachella Valley to play in the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. I know there have been people who have tried to qualify before me, it’s pretty prestigious. It is by far the biggest thing I have ever been in.” -Will McMahon


2014 Life Skills & Leadership academy

san diego, california

Will McMahon from The First Tee of the Coachella Valley attended The First Tee Life Skills and Leadership Academy in San Diego, Calif. July 23-29. Will joined 90 junior golfers from The First Tee, ages 13-17, in this national event. The Academy, staged by The First Tee home office and hosted by The First Tee of San Diego, Sycuan Golf Resort and San Diego State University, provided participants valuable character education and leadership instruction during the week-long event. Participants had the opportunity to develop and hone skills to become leaders in their chapters, schools and communities while experiencing championship golf, career exploration and dorm living. During the week, McMahon learned from and interacted with the top coaches in The First Tee network, as well as a variety of young people from around the world. Active in his chapter, and being Eagle certified, McMahon continues to stay involved in his local First Tee Program by mentoring and coaching young participants.

“The Coachella Valley has its own incredible golf history and has been a great place to learn the game of golf. The First Tee here has many great coaches, sponsors and supporters. I want to thank every one of them for making this opportunity possible for me.” -Will McMahon