Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Jackson Cole of Pawleys Island is so grateful for what he's learned from the First Tee program, he wants to pass that on to younger golfers.
“I love coaching and teaching other people about golf,” Cole said.
But at 13, he's not your average First Tee volunteer.
He was the youngest “by about 30 years,” he said.
First Tee uses golf to teach third- and fourth-graders character development and life skills.
“It's definitely been a huge part of my development as a person,” Cole said, adding that the program has taught him how to deal with difficult things in life, while at the same time improving his golf game.
First Tee also gave him the opportunity to coach his little brother, A.J., who is a fourth-grader.
Cole started playing golf for fun in his backyard when he was about 7. By 8 he was playing with his dad, and his parents sent him to a golf clinic. He was the youngest at the clinic and at the end, when he didn't win an award, he told his mom “I never want to play this game again.”
He got over that feeling, and the disappointment gave him the “motivation and determination to improve,” he said.
Last spring he joined the Waccamaw High golf team as a seventh-grader. The Warriors made it all the way to the state tournament, where, once again, Cole was one of the youngest participants.
“It was definitely a different experience than I was used to,” he said. “Next year I'll be more prepared.”
Over Thanksgiving weekend, Cole won his age division in the 45th annual George Holliday Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament in Myrtle Beach.
“I've been playing that tournament since I was 8 years old,” he said.
“It was a huge win. The biggest win I've had so far in my career. I was thrilled.”
Cole was also recently awarded a McConnell Scholarship by The Reserve, which means he is now a junior member of the club.
“I'm blessed to get the scholarship,” Cole said. “It lets me interact with people who understand and have the same goals as I have.”
The Reserve is Cole's favorite course because it's the “nicest” and most junior friendly. He also likes True Blue and Caledonia.
Cole doesn't have a favorite professional golfer, but he likes to watch the technique of good players to see what makes them good. And he likes golfers who have good personalities and good character, like Bubba Watson and Ricky Fowler, both of whom he follows on Twitter.
Cole has been coached the last few years by Mike Schroder, who has been working with Grand Strand golfers for more than 30 years. He calls Schroder, “a huge part of my golf game.”
“Overall, he has contributed to my development as a golfer and person,” Cole said.
Schroder has been battling cancer this year and True Blue is hosting a benefit golf tournament for him on Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. Cost is $75 per player. To register call the Steve Dresser Golf Academy at 843-650-2272 or go to www.dressergolf.com.
The First Tee program is always looking for more volunteer coaches to help out at Wedgefield in Georgetown and Tradition Club in Pawleys Island. The next training session will be in February, and the new season will be in March and April.
Volunteers can work as much, or as little as their schedule allows.
For more information on becoming a volunteer, contact Tommy Gaither at firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-833-2999.
To find out more about the program, go to www.thefirstteethegrandstrand.org.