Professional golfer Billy Horschel was the guest speaker at a First Tee Innovators Forum held at the PGA Tour’s Global Home in Ponte Vedra Beach on Nov. 9.
He spoke to 28 teens from across the country, who spent four days coming up with an idea for a community service project that they would then return to their hometowns and work on implementing their projects with help from the First Tee and its partners.
Horschel shared he and his wife Brittany’s commitment to helping local nonprofits, such as Feeding Northeast Florida and it led to them starting their own Horschel Family Foundation within the past year.
The teens in attendance asked questions and picked Horschel’s brain about what it took to start the foundation, including their driving forces behind wanting to get and stay involved in the local community.
“It’s about seeing the lives you have impacted over the years,” Horschel said.
He shared with the teens how he and his wife first got involved with Feeding Northeast Florida years ago because they looked at their children and thought how fortunate they are to have all that they need to eat, but they could not imagine the thought of some children not being as blessed and wanted to do what they could to help fix that.
“It’s about finding something that touches you and really means something to you,” Horschel said. “For us that was providing food to those families in need, but for you it could be something else. When you’re passionate about it, you’re going to want to see it through no matter what.”
However, Horschel stressed that although being a professional golfer may allow him the ability to help even more because of the platform that he has, but that anyone with a cause in their heart can make a difference.
“Some of the smallest steps lead to the biggest gains,” Horschel said.
While he was in the middle of answering questions he looked out the window and saw Feeding Northeast Florida CEO Susan King and called her in, so she stopped by and joined the session in impromptu fashion.
She was asked by one teen what the key is to handle the fear of failure that can creep in?
According to King, the challenge is something you just have to embrace, and it is actually not as hard as it seems if the ultimate goal is fueled by passion.
“If you’re driven by passion, then failure or success is not a thing,” King said. “All that matters is the mission at hand and why you are doing it. Just like anything else, you will learn from your past experiences.”
Both Horschel and King reiterated throughout that perseverance is probably the most important thing to have when starting or operating a nonprofit.
“It’s going to get tough along the way, but we all have it in us to push through,” Horschel said.
The 28 teens attending the forum were selected based on academic achievement, community service, chapter involvement, leadership, essay responses and letters of recommendation.
The purpose of the event was to encourage participants to become innovators in their respective communities, culminating with each teen presenting the plans for their project.
“Our participants have produced creative and impactful community service projects since this event launched, addressing issues like food insecurity and environmental sustainability,” First Tee CEO Greg McLaughlin said.