Game Changer

by Feb 19, 2024South Brunswick, Tee Time with Larry

The First Tee Coastal Carolinas impacts the lives of local youth through the game of golf.

Tucked away off U.S. Highway 17 in Shallotte is a magical spot where the future of local youth is headed way above par — while the kids are learning to shoot below par! Boasting a 9-hole pitch and putt course designed by Tom Watson, a Learning Center where life lessons are taught alongside golf rules and etiquette, a driving range to hone golfing skills and much more is the headquarters of the nine-county First Tee Coastal Carolinas chapter.

The First Tee nationally consists of 155 chapters throughout the United States dedicated to improving the lives of youth and their futures through the game of golf. Each chapter is locally supported, and that is where we come in. Participation in First Tee Coastal Carolinas (FTCC) fundraisers, sending children aged 7 to 18 through FTCC programs and donating golf items of value are all part of continuing this vibrant effort to ensure that boys and girls live better lives. FTCC offers improved social interaction, competitive sports and learning the importance of self-reliance, relations with others and respect for rules and the property of others, among other important lessons.

Thistle Golf Driving Range

It is all boiled down into the First Tee 5 Key Commitments taught by Brunswick County Program Manager Terry Mauney and a bevy of local coaches, as follows:
1) Pursuing goals
2) Growing through challenges
3) Collaborating with others
4) Building positive self identity
5) Using good judgment

First Tee of the Coastal Carolinas Program Manager Terry Mauney and a bevy of local coaches teach these commitments and ensure that the players have fun. I spoke with Mauney, a former PGA Tour & PGA Tour Champions member, who has developed the skills of many local youth, helping them earn scholarships to college and manage the development of healthy habits. Mauney came to Shallotte from the First Tee in Texas and coordinates with Executive Director Ed LaPierre and Board Chair Terry Boldt on ensuring FTCC makes the most out of its 28-acre campus, including a six-week-long summer camp.

Maintenance of the facilities is carried on by numerous volunteers and supported by local entities such as Revels, which provides equipment and support. It’s a community effort.

“We also coordinate with the Brunswick County Department of Education,” Mauney says, and other entities within the nine counties (Craven, Columbus, Horry, Carteret, Pamlico, Georgetown, Onslow, Brunswick and Pitt).

“FTCC brings the benefits of physical and cerebral activity to kids who might otherwise be glued to their cellphones, and the results are terrific,” Mauney says. “Our youth graduate through our age-based classes, and a number of our First Tee’ers have played at Pebble Beach in a national tournament.”

Thistle Golf Club

The coach adds, “The First Tee helps build character in the young minds that are learning to play golf. They learn how to collaborate with others, how to manage emotions and even learn how to set goals. They do all this while appreciating diversity and learning a game of a lifetime: golf.”

FTCC is always looking for new ways to help local youth develop their skills and is happy to partner with local golf courses like The Emerald in New Bern, Sandpiper Bay in Sunset Beach and Wachesaw Plantation in Pawleys Island. FTCC also partners with the New Hanover County–based First Tee of Wilmington on various programs, including the First Tee Discount Golf Card that raises important funds for the operation of these charities.

Executive Director Ed LaPierre is a New Hampshire native with experience at PGA Superstore. As a former New England PGA-NH Chapter Golf Champion, he knows the game quite well. He is working on a number of changes that will come to FTCC soon.

“We are very excited to grow programming here in Brunswick County adding new sites from on the north and south ends of the county,” LaPierre says. “Additionally, we have expanded programs into Columbus, Onslow and Pitt counties to give us nine counties total. It is all about the kids and ‘building game changers.’”

Thistle Golf Brunswick NC

Outgoing Board Chair Terry Boldt has put both his sons through the FTCC programs and has seen the benefits first hand. Incoming Board Chair Charlie Hoover says, “My son and a friend of his played with me in the FGT tournament this past weekend with a 13-year-old First Tee participant, who has been involved in the program for about four years. Afterwards, I asked my partners what they thought of the experience, and they both were totally amazed by this young man. A firm handshake, eye contact, a smile and politeness were the first thoughts they had about him. These are the things that The First Tee teaches, and they are life-long talents. Helping to build that firm foundation for the kids is what keeps me motivated as a First Tee volunteer.”

So how does this affect local golfers and future golfers? These programs are benefiting youth who will eventually work for us and with us, play golf with us and support our local courses. They are not changing the game of golf — just the way it impacts all of us!

Pitch In
To volunteer or to get a youth involved in
First Tee Coastal Carolinas
(910) 754-5288

Photography by Megan Deitz