By: Coach Wes Gilmore
I’ve always been competitive. Like many kids, I’d always dreamt of being best at everything. The game of golf quickly made its way to the top of my list. As a four-year-old, I would spend hours whacking the ball around the putting green, and sometimes, the hole got in the way. As I got older, the frequency with which the ball found the hole grew, and as a result, my interest in golf. I started playing competitive golf at the age of six and marveled at the level of independence and unpredictability of the game. Golf helped me to understand accountability and showed me that there are no shortcuts to success On the golf course, I was in charge. I was to blame when things went wrong. My expectations grew, as did an intense work ethic. I entered The First Tee of Atlanta three years later at the age of nine. My desire to improve sold me on the summer camp. I would not understand the other positive effects the program would have on me until much later.
Before entering The First Tee, I usually practiced by myself. I had very few peers that shared the same passion for the game as I did. Initially, the only gratification I found was from winning competitions. As I advanced through the program, my skills improved. I met like-minded, lifelong companions that loved the game just as much as I did. The program allowed me access to practice facilities that otherwise I would not have had. While I am thankful for these things, I am most thankful to The First Tee for instilling a deep appreciation for the game of golf; a deeper gratitude for the game that shaped me into the man I am today.
The Nine Core Values taught by The First Tee have stayed with me my whole life. The First Tee not only helped me to improve my skill set on the course, it armed me with the skills to face my flaws. Like any other sport, you can better your golf game through technique, strategy, equipment, and mental training. Further, golf requires the patience, grit, and critical thinking used when facing challenges in every-day life. I’ve always felt that I am battling human nature on the golf course – my own personal flaws. We never truly conquer our flaws, but throughout our lifetime, we can always try to improve ourselves.
As a The First Tee coach, my goal is to introduce the game of golf to as many youths possible and to instill the same passion to ensure the game’s future. It is my hope that I can pass along a little of the joy that the game has given me. Golf can open doors that change lives. It can bind people that otherwise would have nothing in common. Golf is a game you can play for a lifetime and gain a lifetime of lessons learned.