USC Aiken Golf Partners Attend PGA Tour Event

March 16, 2017

The First Tee of Aiken recently selected several local youth to travel to Palm Beach, Fla., to participate in special events in conjunction with the PGA’s Honda Classic Golf Tournament.

During the event, young Aiken golfers rubbed elbows with some of the sport’s leaders and mentors, learning tips on how to improve individual skills and getting coveted access to National PGA Tour players. 

“Overall, it was an incredible weekend filled with great opportunities for our participants,” said Lexie Milford, Executive Director for The First Tee of Aiken.  “The kids were able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a major PGA Tour event while promoting The First Tee mission through a variety of service and leadership activities.”

Milford is also excited by the support from PGA Tour members for The First Tee of Aiken’s capital campaign to build a new home on the University of South Carolina Aiken campus.  The privately funded 60-acre, nine-hole golf practice facility will be located near USC Aiken’s Roberto Hernandez Baseball Field and will serve as a permanent home for The First Tee of Aiken as well as the University’s golf program. 

PGA golf professionals Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner have agreed to serve as an honorary co-chair for the facility's capital campaign.  

“My college golf team will have a complete practice facility that will not only help to improve the golfers’ performance but will also serve as a powerful recruiting tool,” said Brown.

“The First Tee of Aiken partnering with the university offers a great location to operate the programs and introduce these young people to a college environment,” said Kisner.  “That’s a valuable opportunity for a young person who might not ever picture college in his or her future.”

While in Palm Beach, the lucky First Tee of Aiken participants watched Kisner and Brown play a few holes during the final round of the tournament.  Then, The First Tee of Aiken youth played in The Monday after The Honda Classic Invitational at the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa.

"I really enjoyed golfing at the tournament on Monday. It was an amazing experience golfing where the pros play," said Annie Bruno, ACE participant at The First Tee of Aiken.

In addition to the memorable golfing experiences, the young participants took part in a number of service projects and leadership activities, starting with volunteering as coaches at the Els Center of Excellence.

“The First Tee of Aiken already had a relationship with the Els for Autism Foundation as we were a pilot location for their #GameON Golf classes last year and currently conduct weekly #GameON Golf clinics at our facility,” said Milford.  “Our participants were able to interact with the young people at the school through the clinic and were able to tour this world-class facility.”

The Aiken crew then teamed up with The First Tee of The Palm Beaches staff and participants to help with their fundraiser at the Honda Classic, raising almost $2,500 for The First Tee of The Palm Beaches.

"I had so much fun helping out The First Tee of The Palm Beaches at the tournament. It was great to meet people from another chapter," said Brice Smoker, ACE Certified participant at The First Tee of Aiken.

Milford says that the new facility at USC Aiken will allow The First Tee of Aiken to invite other chapters here for similar learning and character-building opportunities. 

“Our goal would be to use our relationships with other chapters and The First Tee Home Office to create experiences for participants that provide opportunities to learn about community service and leadership,” she said.

Excited First Tee of Aiken participants are now looking forward to the Competitor-Amateur at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in April.

USC Aiken, a comprehensive university in the University of South Carolina system, offers undergraduate and master’s degrees to more than 3,500 students in 50 programs of study. USC Aiken is ranked the #1 public regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report’s guide "America’s Best Colleges." The 2017 distinction marks USC Aiken’s 19th consecutive ranking among the top three in this category and its 12th time in first place.