Upon reporting to the PGA TOUR on January 3, 2007 I was one of hundreds of employees. Though my job was just as important as the employee in the cubicle next to me, it was a very specific job with very specific task and guidelines. That is, with exception of THE PLAYERS Championship week (our home game) when you were willing to help wherever needed.
Fast forward 100 months to The First Tee of the Sandhills, where I stand today. We are operating a nonprofit business that outreaches to thousands of youth ages 5 to 17 annually with a full time staff of two and part time network of 88 volunteers.
Here, I have the opportunity to dip into every single area of the business. My job description is specific, clean and simple. It’s to meet the mission. To positively impact the lives of young people by providing structured educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.
Yet, the task that go into fulfilling this job description are numerous.
At the end of the day, the most gratifying moment you can have is escaping the office for 90 minutes and helping to teach and execute one of our weekly curriculum plans. During these moments you may think you are making an impact on the youth but in reality they are making an impact on you! At the end of class I always like to pose the question, which game today was your favorite? Which game was the hardest? Almost like clockwork, their answer to these two questions is always the same. When successful, we are able to make hard games fun. To teach the participants that overcoming challenges feels good and can be accomplished.
One of our crowd favorite games is tic-tac-toe golf. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board of any size placed on a putting green, a chipping surface or down the driving range. Grab a friend and play tic-tac-toe as if you were using paper and pencil, but instead to mark your X down you must be the first person to successfully stop the ball in that square.
The rules are simple. You only get one attempt per turn, first person to get three in a row wins and you always shake hands to congratulate your opponent.
Grab some string, a few golf tees and set up a board in your yard, at the park or the golf course. Start with a large board and begin making it smaller and smaller. I promise that this game will help improve your distance control, direction and strategy. Who knew practicing could be both beneficial and fun!
Many participants do not have the opportunity to play the golf version of tic-tac-toe outside of their time at The First Tee. Instead we show them that if they have concrete, a piece of chalk and any type of ball or bean bag they can create a board and play by tossing or kicking an object. They are still learning distance and direction while playing a game with a sibling, neighbor or friend.
I encourage you to try your hand at tic-tac-toe and see how it positively affects your golf game, mindset and relationship with your opponent.
These moments of interaction with our participants brings me back to the roots our mission, allows the creative juices to begin flowing, re-energizes and is a friendly reminder that our mission comes first.