Tyler AndringaTyler Andringa, 18, may have been born three and a half months premature, but he was born with true grit to persevere against the odds, growing up into a humble, charming young man who “lights up a room,” according to The First Tee of Yakima’s executive director Christina McCarthy. Despite having Cerebral Palsy and being blind in one eye, Tyler learned to play—and love—golf. He is a member of his high school varsity golf team and earned a spot at the district playoffs this year. When he is not on the course, Tyler is pursuing his other passion—singing. He is part of a small local jazz ensemble, a member of his high school choir. Tyler hopes to attend Perry Technical Institute in Yakima, Wash. and enroll in the Information Technology & Communication Systems Program where he will study to become a network architect.
Kavya Chandra, 18, was born resilient. After being rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit when she was born because she was unable to breathe, Kavya learned quickly to persevere…and persevering is what she has been doing ever since. At only three months old, Kavya met with another set back that forced Kavya to be under mandatory and specialized medical care on a regular basis. But she does not let this get her down! Warned by doctors not to pursue any sports, Kavya did not want to spend her childhood cooped up indoors. At age 10, she joined The First Tee of Silicon Valley—a decision that helped her look at her life with a positive attitude! She found peace in nature and developed confidence in herself as she progressed through the levels, from PLAYer to Ace. Kavya went from not knowing the sport to competing in regional tournaments—a feat she and her doctors never thought would be possible. Kavya perseveres on and off the course despite the ups and downs of her life. An honors student and volunteer junior golf coach at her chapter, Kavya is also a black belt in karate! This driven and focused young woman hopes to be a role model for all other young people. As Kavya says, “with determination and perseverance, you could certainly overcome every barriers to pursue your goals and dreams”.
Brittany Ferrante, 17, is an accomplished golfer and an outgoing, driven, lovely young woman who found a second family at The First Tee of Nassau County. A child of divorced parents, Brittany was forced to grow up quickly as she and her brother weathered their mother’s bouts of depression. Even though her father eventually moved back in to help take care of them, he worked long hours, which meant greater responsibility fell to Brittany. When she discovered The First Tee, she learned life skills that changed her life. She often applied STAR (Stop, Think, Anticipate, Respond) on the golf course as well as in her personal life, especially during difficult times at home. Determined to stay positive and fun-loving, Brittany found solace at her chapter. Excelling in academics and at the sport, she played on the boys’ varsity golf team throughout high school, serving as captain the last two years. She has volunteered more than 2,000 hours at her chapter and was selected to play in the 2013 Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. Persevering through the ups and downs at home, Brittany has been accepted to University of Hartford where she will play on the golf team and study early childhood education.
Gerardo Lugo-Trejo, 17, an Eagle-level participant at The First Tee of Naples/Collier, is not only an accomplished golfer, but is also a young man who personifies the meaning of responsibility, perseverance and integrity both on and off the golf course. Growing up in Immokalee, Fla., a rural community comprised primarily of migrant workers and their families, Gerardo was raised in a close-knit family with his two parents and two brothers. Three years ago, Gerardo’s father injured his back, causing him to stay home, therefore leaving the family without an income. The stress was not unnoticed by Gerardo and his brothers, who wanted to help ease the financial pressure. Using The First Tee Life Skills STAR (Stop, Think, Anticipate, Respond), Gerardo worked through scenarios to help his family, and decided he and his older brother would join their mother after school, picking tomatoes in the heat. This demonstration of responsibility and perseverance from such a young man makes him a true role model for The First Tee.
Nicholas Narcisse, 16, was a member at The First Tee of New Orleans, along with his sister, enjoying the programs, clinics and camaraderie. One August day in 2005, Nicholas, his mother and sister were at the chapter when his father called to tell them they needed to evacuate the city—a strong tropical cyclone named Hurricane Katrina was heading toward Louisiana. Packing what they could into their car, the Narcisse family drove 10 hours to an uncle’s house in Texas. Three days later, their city was completely flooded; their home gone forever. For a month, Nicholas and his family slept in one bedroom, with his two cousins, while his parents sorted out their next steps. The Narcisse family soon settled in the Dallas area where Nicholas and his sister quickly joined—and were warmly welcomed by—The First Tee of Fort Worth. At his new home chapter, Nicholas flourished in golf and in the community. He serves on the Junior Advisor Committee, volunteers at the chapter’s events, clinics, camps and fundraisers, has been selected to attend several national participant opportunities, as well as speaks often on behalf of The First Tee and the positive impact the program has had in his life.
Derrick Ow, 16, has been a participant at The First Tee of Monterey County for 10 years. During that time, he has grown from a shy, timid boy who hardly spoke, into a confident, outgoing leader and speaker. But his journey to the singing, talkative young man he is today was not an easy one. By the age of two, Derrick had lost his ability to communicate as a result of eight seizures he suffered in 48 hours which took away his speech and fine motor skills. The specialists did not give his parents much hope that he would ever regain his speech, much less become a functioning member in mainstream society. After several years of medication treatments, the seizures stopped and Derrick’s parents enrolled him in any special education and occupational therapy classes they could find. The Ow’s faith in their son instilled a deep-rooted sense of perseverance in Derrick that he uses every day. By the age of six, Derrick regained his speech which only motivated him to work harder. By the time he joined The First Tee of Monterey County, he had experienced some bullying at school by peers who did not understand why he attended special education classes. At his chapter, he found a welcoming, caring environment where he could be himself. Derrick is now a member of his high school golf team and marching band. He is also a junior coach and an assistant coach at his chapter. Derrick plans to major in journalism and become a sports broadcaster. Considering the odds that Derrick has already overcome in his 16 years, we would not be surprised if he became the next Rich Lerner!
Tyler Putnam, 18, has swung his way to become an Eagle-level participant who is very active at The First Tee of Hampton Roads, however his path was not easy. When he was two years old, doctors determined he had learning difficulties, but they insisted on a “wait and see” approach before finalizing a diagnosis. It was not until Tyler was in third grade that he was officially diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia and dysgraphia (the inability to translate what is in the mind to paper). Unfortunately, the “wait and see” approach was detrimental because during those early formative years, he was absorbing information incorrectly, which meant that the information would be recalled incorrectly throughout his life. Tyler was struggling through his learning difficulties as well as struggling against the label his peers put on him as having a “disability.” Thanks to his creative mother, Tyler was able to find an outlet to help him with school work. For example, when learning his multiplication tables, he would putt in his living room while his mother quizzed him. Putting served as an outlet that helped him focus easier than he would have sitting at a table, memorizing numbers. Realizing that golf could be a great way to channel his energy, Tyler’s family enrolled him in The First Tee of Hampton Roads where his gained confidence, relaxed and thrived in an environment where he was not bullied by his peers. This honors student—and member of his high school band—spends much of his time volunteering at the chapter and mentoring younger participants. Tyler plans to enter the Professional Golf Management program at Coastal Carolina in 2015 and continue to excel in an industry that has made such an incredible impact in his life.
William Sallee, 18, knows what it means to work hard. Throughout his schooling, he always had to put in extra effort to understand and complete his homework, spending much longer on it than his friends. He only recently discovered that dyslexia was the reason behind his struggles. Because his brain processes language and information in a different way, Will had to work hard to make good grades. Instead of choosing the easy route and giving up on his studies, he asked for help from his teachers and family, and now maintains a 4.2 weighted GPA. Will is an example of a young man who can persevere and adapt to circumstances outside of his control. He applied his focus not just in school but also in his golf game. In addition to his involvement at The First Tee of Lexington, Will has played on his school’s varsity golf team since the 7th grade, serving as team captain his senior year. In 2012, he was selected to play in the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach where his confidence grew as a golfer and a young man. He will play golf for Eastern Kentucky University in the fall and plans to become a physical education teacher.
Cameryn SmithCameryn Smith, 17, a participant at The First Tee of Brunswick County, may have only weighed two pounds when she was born, but she has grown into an amazing young lady with a big heart, big smile and big golf game. Doctors told Cameryn’s mother that because her daughter was born premature she would have developmental difficulties. But other than a weakened immune system, Cameryn defied the odds and thrived. When she was in 4th grade, though, Cameryn, her mother and younger brother were driving home when they were hit by a drunk driver. All three were hurt in the accident, however her mother suffered the most severe injuries, enduring 14 surgeries and 14 months in a wheelchair. She is on permanent disability with more surgeries in her future. Because her mother is a single parent, Cameryn became the “mom” of house, doing laundry, mowing the yard and getting her brother ready for school. Her positive, can-do spirit carried her family during this hard time and only blossomed more as she became involved with The First Tee. Known for her genuine warmth, generosity and big smile, she has become a valuable participant, volunteer and mentor at her chapter. During her 8th grade year, Cameryn developed a pulmonary embolism after knee surgery, spending a week in the intensive care unit. While in the hospital, she was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder which she will have to monitor for the rest of her life. Although the disease will impact her life, she refuses to let it slow her down. Aspiring to play golf in college, Cameryn has worked hard to completely revise her game, all with a smile on her face and kindness in her heart.
These days, Taylor Stroup, 18, a participant at The First Tee of Greater Portland, is one happy young lady—she has been accepted into the pre-engineering program at Oregon State University and is excited to start life as a college student! Her warm personality and kind spirit make her the ideal role model for younger participants at her chapter where she can be counted on to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Life, however, was not always easy for Taylor. Her parents divorced when she was young and she was required to stay with her father and stepmother for part of the month where she was mistreated. Her mother was ultimately awarded full-time custody and with help, Taylor developed the tools to recover from the stress she withstood during that time. Her resiliency, kindness and strength of character is evident as she volunteers in her community, with her chapter and at her high school where serves as a peer counselor. Taylor’s calm confidence and genuine nature gives her the ability to gain the trust of her peers and help them deal with their difficult situations. There is little doubt Taylor will continue to be a force for good in the lives of the people she meets throughout her life.