Playing THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass would likely be a dream for any golfer, and players from First Tee of North Florida got that special opportunity on Saturday, Aug. 15.
Marsh Landing Country Club General Manager Chet Stokes, a former volunteer coach for the First Tee, gave the young First Tee participants the chance to tee it up at the storied course when he and Marsh Landing Country Club donated the foursome to First Tee.
To add to the excitement, each golfer was provided a PGA TOUR employee as a caddie, which wasn’t only a meaningful experience to the players.
Drake Mosley is a data analyst for the PGA TOUR and grew up playing golf, thanks to the contributions of First Tee.
And serving as a caddie for 18-year-old Mombo Ngu last weekend had extra meaning and significance for him.
“Having these kids out at the golf course at TPC Sawgrass, that’s a huge first,” Mosley said. “For me, it was like me reliving some of those first memories I had of my first experience with First Tee at such a young age.”
First Tee’s mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character and instill life-enhancing values through the game of golf. It also introduces young people to a sport they may not have the opportunity to participate in otherwise.
“I feel like that’s how we change our future. By impacting our community first, and ultimately giving back to the kids,” Mosley said.
For Mosley, growing up in Houston with a large family, golf initially seemed out of the realm of possibility.
“You either played football or you played basketball,” he said. “Those were the only two affordable sports available, really.”
But Mosley’s father began playing the game in an effort to get a promotion at his job, and introduced Mosley to golf, and to First Tee.
“My dad was able to see the value of the game and how it builds character,” Mosley said. “He also said there are opportunities that will come to you out on the golf course.”
Through First Tee, Mosley and his three siblings, who also play golf were able to get donated golf equipment.
Mosley found he had a knack for the sport, and by age 13, he was teaching older kids how to play through First Tee.
Between the ages of 16-18, Mosley began focusing on tournament play, and First Tee paid his tournament registration fees throughout high school.
“That would have been a huge burden on us,” Mosley said.
Mosley said also credits First Tee with helping him find the determination to succeed in a sport where he didn’t see too many other players who looked like him.
“Being Black in a white dominated sport presents its challenges. Often times many people underestimating my skill just on the color of my skin,” he said. “At many times, being overlooked at first glance when meeting prospecting college coaches. Through these challenges, the First Tee has given me the confidence needed to persevere through this negativity.”
Two-time PGA TOUR winner, Nease graduate, Ponte Vedra Beach resident and First Tee of North Florida ambassador, Len Mattiace, also joined the group for and offered swing tips and advice to the golfers along the way.
Mosley said Mattiace gave the players another treat when he pointed out some eagles that had made nests in nearby trees.
“How many kids get to say they played Sawgrass, got to see eagles and play with a professional,” Mosley said.
Mosley, who played golf at Talladega College, just completed his course work for his Masters in Business Administration at the University of North Florida two weeks ago, and aims to progress in his role at the PGA TOUR. He also leads the PGA TOUR’s internal employee resource group, which strives to celebrate diversity among its workforce.
“I would like to work toward a future that’s more diverse, particularly in the game of golf in general,” Mosley said. “That would be a future I would be proud to be a part of.”
His other future goals include too one day serve as board member at a First Tee local chapter level.
This will provide a great amount of closure for me as it will allow me to further impact the next generation of youth to pave the way for a brighter future,’” Mosley said.
At last Saturday’s First Tee event, TPC Sawgrass also provided customized caddie bibs with each golfer’s name on the back, and veteran PLAYERS announcer/TPC Sawgrass team member Doug Kidd announced each of the golfers on the First Tee.
For more information on First Tee, go to firsttee.org.