THE PLAYERS Championship, in partnership with First Tee – North Florida, hosted an open house and clinic on Thursday, Jan. 18, for Duval County middle school students in order to introduce them to First Tee’s programming and offerings.
Held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Lunch on the Links answered a question asked by the iconic civil rights hero: “What are you doing for others?”
As a result of THE PLAYERS’ charitable giving to First Tee – one of the tournament’s longest-served charitable beneficiaries – the youth-development organization has created a plan to introduce golf and its character-building programs to more diverse young people and communities.
New in 2021, First Tee — North Florida is collaborating with Duval County Public Schools to launch “Rising Leaders of Jax.”
This program introduces 30 middle school students to the game of golf, using it as a vehicle to empower them to build inner strength and life skills they can carry to everything that they do.
The free, one-year accelerated program will use First Tee’s curriculum and will include students selected from schools within close proximity to Brentwood Golf Course, where their instruction and mentorship will take place.
An alumnus of the Duval County school system, Mombo Ngu, has experienced firsthand the critical role First Tee played in her development as a person and a leader, both on and off the golf course.
“Throughout my life, I have faced difficulties that I believed I couldn’t overcome,” said Ngu. “First Tee has always been a key factor that has helped guide me through it all. The coaches and mentors have taught me that giving back to the community is crucial, and to be a power for good for at least one person makes everything worthwhile.”
A graduate of Darnell Cookman Middle and High School, Ngu is now a sophomore at the University of Florida studying sociology with a pre-medical track.
She spent more than 10 years with First Tee — North Florida as a participant and continues to be involved, serving as a coach with the organization when she is home from college. During her time with First Tee, Ngu was selected for multiple First Tee National Opportunities, including the Joe Louis Barrow Jr. Life Skills and Leadership Academy and the John Deere Power for Good Scholarship.
During the open house, the middle school students had the opportunity to chat with First Tee — North Florida alumni like Ngu, as well as staff members and current participants. In addition, stations were set up on the range and putting green, affording the students the opportunity to take a few swings of their own.
PGA TOUR winner and First Tee — North Florida ambassador Len Mattiace, alongside First Tee alumnus and current PGA TOUR employee Drake Mosley, were present to share swing tips and advice with the students.
Lunch was provided courtesy of Firehouse Subs, a longtime food partner of THE PLAYERS.
After Ngu shared her story with the attendees, leaders from First Tee, THE PLAYERS, City of Jacksonville and Duval County Public Schools addressed the group. Among the speakers were First Tee CEO Greg McLaughlin, THE PLAYERS Executive Director Jared Rice, Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju'Coby Pittman (District 8) and Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Diana Greene.
“Take advantage, young people, of this opportunity of learning the game of golf,” said Greene. “Because not only will you learn the game of golf, but you’ll learn the game of life.”
The open house concluded with ceremonial tee shots to officially kick off the 50-day countdown to THE PLAYERS.
“Today’s open house is a testament to the unifying power of golf,” said THE PLAYERS Executive Director Jared Rice. “To have representatives from the City of Jacksonville, Duval County Public Schools, First Tee and THE PLAYERS all come together united by a mission to introduce more kids to the game is what drives THE PLAYERS to continue to support First Tee and its programming each year. First Tee is building game changers, in golf and in life, and we are honored to continue supporting its mission.”