From left: Laurie Capra, Brandi Chastain, Jackie Simmons- Reade, DJ Garrett and Sunita Kul at The First Tee Golf Outing.
“You can change a child’s life by being involved in The First Tee,” Brandi Chastain, celebrated World Cup soccer star, Olympian, author and coach told an audience of more than 200 golfers and The First Tee supporters who attended the 2nd annual golf outing and luncheon held at TPC Avenel on April 18.
Chastain explained the impact The First Tee makes on a child’s life and also commented on the opportunities and life lessons that participation in sports have given her. The First Tee event included a nine-hole golf outing with 64 players, a luncheon, silent auction and raffle prizes. The proceeds from the event fund The First Tee’s golf programs for youth in Montgomery County.
In the final game of the 1999 Women’s World Cup soccer tournament, Chastain kicked the winning penalty goal in a match against China. Because of her feat, the U.S. National Team won the World Cup. Chastain immediately ripped off her jersey, fell on her knees in her sports bra and cheered while swinging her jersey victoriously in the air. The iconic moment captured the front cover of Time, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and other publications.
Chastain played on the 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team, competed for the FC Gold Pride, a professional women’s soccer team, coaches at Santa Clara University in California, was inducted into the West Coast Conference Hall of Honor, serves as a soccer analyst for NBC Sports, runs the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative and is a wife, mom and step-mom.
She is also a golfer and tennis player and was the first woman to play in the AT&T Celebrity Pro-Am at Pebble Beach and was most recently the champion of the Michael Jordan Celebrity Golf Tournament. She also supports many projects and causes — and strongly believes in the power of an organization like “The First Tee.”
“This organization gives children the sense of the possible — and healthy habits to be successful,” Chastain said.
The First Tee of Montgomery County benefits more than 500 Montgomery County youth who would not typically have access to the game and its opportunities. Young men and women, ages 8 - 17 are introduced to the fundamentals of golf, provided with equipment, clothing, lessons and the chance to play on Montgomery County courses. But the major impact of the program is not only to teach youths the skills to successfully play a life-long game, but to teach them nine core values — respect, perseverance, honesty, integrity, courtesy, responsibility, sportsmanship, confidence and judgment — that will ensure their success in school and careers, with adults and friends. Another goal is to encourage girls to become involved in the world of sports.
Twelve-year-old Jennifer Saratis and 14-year-old Jemies Saratis have been involved with “The First Tee” for five years. Jemies explains the impact that the organization has had on her life. “I have met a lot of people and learned lessons that help me in life and in school. The game and the program have given me the confidence to try new things and take risks. Golf is really fun, too.”
Her sister, Jennifer, said, “I have learned the importance of honesty and treating other people with respect.” Both girls plan to continue playing golf. They helped at the golf outing by putting for players on one hole — routinely sinking putts short and long.
Treasurer of The First Tee Board of Directors Pat Price said, “The demand for our program is bigger than the supply. We served 500 kids the past few years and we are hoping to be able to serve 1,000. One issue that keeps us from being able to include more children is that we need more volunteers to come to the courses to help out. During the school year, we need volunteers in the afternoon to work with programs from 4 – 5 p.m., and then we need summer volunteers during our summer camp. We are at the following golf courses: Needwood, Laytonsville, Olney Park, Sligo and Montgomery Village — and volunteers can serve at any of these locations. People don’t have to have a knowledge of golf, but have to enjoy being with children.”
Laura Sildon, executive director, said that The First Tee also offers scholarship opportunities and enhances leadership skills: “The Life Skills Program is one of the unique features that separates The First Tee from many junior golf programs. This experience provides life skills such as goal setting, problem solving and the mastery of positive behaviors and values.”
“One of our important messages is taught through the 3 R’s,” she added: “Relax, Replay, Redo. This is a strategy that a young person can use in his or her golf game, but also when attacking that tough Algebra problem, or in dealing with a difficult problem.”
There are many other ways to become involved with The First Tee of Montgomery County. Donations of equipment, gently-used clothing and shoes are needed. Monetary donations may be made over the website at www.thefirstteemcmd.org, or by mail to The First Tee, PO Box 18, Kensington, MD 20895. For more information, call 240-447-4646.