CHARLOTTE — Like the thousands of golfers at the Quail Hollow Club for the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship on May 3 to 6, Grace Kehoe had her tournament pass wrapped around her neck as she prepared to follow PGA Tour golfers Jason Dufner and Cameron Tringale.
But Kehoe’s was pass was different. Very different. In fact, only a handful of fans at Quail Hollow had the same pass.
As one of four national winners of the Succeeding Together essay contest that celebrates the impact The First Tee has on students across the country, Kehoe, 17, was allowed to get inside the ropes to watch the world’s best golfers up close and personal. The essay contest was sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank.
“This was a once in a lifetime chance,” Kehoe said. “We were up close. This is such a great tournament and to be out here, walking with the pros, is a whole different experience. It was really, really great walking up close with them because you could see their swings a whole lot better. It was a completely different experience than walking outside the ropes.”
Wells Fargo created the contest for the 30,000 teenage boys and girls that participate in the First Tee, which is an organization that introduces youth to the game at more than 150 chapters across the country.
Kehoe, along with other contestants from around the country, wrote about the importance of being a part of a First Tee Go-To Team, which is a core life skill of the First Tee that fosters partnership and teamwork in all areas of life.
A panel of judges from Wells Fargo, The First Tee and the Wells Fargo Championship tournament picked the four winners. Shahbaz Hashmi, from The First Tee of Greater San Antonio, was picked as the grand prize winner and the 17-year-old played with Tiger Woods during a Pro-Am tournament at the Wells Fargo Championship on May 2.
Kehoe, who plays for the girls’ golf team at Myers Park High School, started with The First Tee five years ago. Kehoe submitted her essay in mid-March and learned a few weeks before the Wells Fargo that she was one of the four national winners.
“The First Tee is the best program that you can be a part of,” Kehoe said. “It helps you not just as an athlete but also as a person. It’s a life skills and leadership program. A Go-To Team is a support team built by a participant. It offers support both on and off the golf course. I just wrote how my Go-To Team has supported me in golf, in school and in life. It has really given me a lot of confidence.”
Kehoe said she was a bit nervous at the start of the round on May 5 and that she didn’t have much interaction with either Dufner or Tringale during the third round.
“I was afraid I was going to walk where I was not supposed to,” Kehoe said with a laugh. “But no one had to speak to us, so I consider that a success. You could tell both golfers were focused on their game, which was good. That is their office and we didn’t want to bug them while they were working. When you are on the other side of the ropes when there is a big crowd, it is hard to see every single shot. We got to experience it up close and see every single shot inside the ropes.”
Kehoe said she is looking forward to her senior season this fall with the girls’ golf team at Myers Park.
“It’s really a fun time and the girls really support each other,” Kehoe said.