GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – In a short three years with First Tee, Nelia Leong made a nationwide impact on the organization. So much so that she was one of 25 to receive the First Tee college scholarship.

“When I heard I was like ‘oh, my gosh,’” Leong recalled. “And then of course I told my parents and they were really proud and happy for me.” 

Leong didn’t take up golf until her late teens when she helped launch the inaugural girls golf program at Southside High School. 

“That first season I was the only one which was fine because other coaches from the schools that I played against that season kind of were able to kind of help me out because it was really new to me,” she said.  

She competed for state titles the last two years of high school and was her senior-class vice president, all while working for First Tee. Leong attended the national First Tee Innovators Forum, where she created an environmental sustainability curriculum to bring to the Upstate chapter, teaching the younger generation about the importance of conserving energy through simple actions such as turning the lights off. 

“All those little things accumulate and I feel that it’s really important to kind of implement that change at an early age that they are, so that they can form those habits early on.” 

Through these initiatives, Leong made a lasting impression on the Upstate chapter. The program, she says, did the same for her. 

“First Tee has just brought me so many experiences and so many skills that I don’t think I would’ve been able to master outside of the program. And it’s just overall been an incredible experience.” 

Leong is now getting ready for her freshman year at the University of Florida, where she plans to utilize her scholarship to major in public health with the hopes of later attending dental school.