THE PLAYERS Championship launches 50-day countdown with First Tee
PGA TOUR, Ben Jared
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida – “I hope you join me and discover the opportunities that the game of golf and First Tee can provide to you…Today, you took your first step towards First Tee. Keep going. It will be worth it.”
This was the advice First Tee alumnus Mombo Ngu shared with the Duval County middle school students and their families who ‘took their first step towards First Tee’ at Brentwood Golf Course earlier this afternoon.
As the nation gathered on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to celebrate the contributions of the civil rights hero who asked “what are you doing for others,” THE PLAYERS Championship, in partnership with First Tee – North Florida, answered that question by hosting Lunch on the Links, an open house and clinic for Duval County middle school students in order to introduce them to First Tee’s programming and offerings.
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 the game of golf and their character building programs to more diverse young people and communities. Specifically, new in 2021, First Tee — North Florida is collaborating with Duval County Public Schools to launch “Rising Leaders of Jax.” This program identifies 30 middle school students in Duval County public schools and introduces them to the game of golf, using it as a powerful vehicle to empower kids 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.
As an alumnus of the Duval County school system herself, 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.”
Ngu, a graduate of Darnell Cookman Middle and High School, 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 stay 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 today’s 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. Additionally, 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, including First Tee CEO Greg McLaughlin, THE PLAYERS Executive Director Jared Rice, Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju'Coby Pittman (District 8), Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, and City of Jacksonville’s Director of Community and International Affairs Dr. Charles Moreland.
“Take advantage, young people, of this opportunity of learning the game of golf,” said Dr. Diana Greene, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools. “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.”