GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – By teaching life skills, golf fundamentals, and being the example, First Tee coaches are what make the whole thing run.

“Our coaches are the heart of our program. They’re the mentors to the kids. They’re kind of the boots on the ground when it comes to our mission,” said First Tee-Upstate Executive Director Michael Pius.  

The First Tee program includes nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgement. That initiative is what motivated volunteer turned coach and mentor Brenda Rutledge to join. 

“The core values that they teach at the beginning level are the same core values that make you a good person in life and they all relate to the game of golf,” said Rutledge.  

Each coach works to attain various levels of training through local and national classes. Level three is the highest and with it comes the title of Recognized First Tee Coach. 

“It was actually in that training that I decided ‘I think I want to do this.’ And I’ve never looked back…just thought it was a perfect fit,” said Rutledge, who has completed her level one training.  

“It prepares you to be able to train a class, but at the same time be able to motivate a person as a role model and really involve them in the game of golf and life,” adds Recognized First Tee Coach Charles Edward.  

Edward has been with the program for over twenty years and said it’s still as rewarding as ever. 

“Some of them had never played golf in their life and after they spent six weeks of being in my class over two to three years and they’re hitting their drivers and making the high school team…I look forward to things they do down the road. That makes me feel great about it.” 

“It’s a lot of fun to see how the kids grow up and feel empowered and energized by our coaches,” said Pius.  

The First Tee-Upstate chapter has a 6:1 kids-to-coach ratio, providing a personalized attention that maximizes impact.

For more on the First Tee-Upstate, click here.