A mere five weeks ago, had you asked me when summer would officially start at First Tee, my response would have been a long pause followed by some hopeful commentary.

An answer I had construed in my mind to follow a “fake it till you make it” mentality learned at a young age to keep us in a confident mindset and moving forward towards a positive outcome. 

Just five weeks ago we were writing multi-scenario game plans, patiently awaiting guidance from the CDC, American Camp Association, Back2Golf, while trying to determine if we would even have enough work to be accomplished for our summer interns to officially move in.

Today, I sit reflecting on our first week of summer camp. 

Three camps, to be exact. 

A feat in itself given where we were a mere five, four, three and two weeks ago. 

Kiddos ranging from 5 to 12 years old supported our Covid-19 tweaks with a reassuring grin and excited-to-be-there attitude. 

They each were given a socially distanced hula hoop for the week. They also had own personal home base to keep their golf bags, personally marked balls, lunch boxes and more. 

From there the youngest participants would navigate small group activities and games on the green space at Campbell House Field in Southern Pines. 

There was stop sign chipping, photo finish full swing, get your heart racing relays, candy crush obstacle course, eager elephant chipping, bocce putting — and the list goes on. 

The older participants got a lot of time on the golf course, thanks to Pinehurst No. 6, where they focused on distance response, club selection, target awareness and setting personal goals. 

Behind the scenes we’ve tweaked lesson plans, adjusted supplies, practiced and re-practiced protocol implementation; all to ensure when our kiddos arrive to camp every day it looks and feels normal. 

Week one will go down in our First Tee–Sandhills history books. A story to remember. It’s taught us lessons, made us smile, reminded us of how much we can accomplish while being responsible and accountable. 

We’ve got 13 more summer camps to go, 13 more chances to welcome new grins, build confidence, embrace change and help kiddos fall in love with golf outdoors this summer.  

So, while our end of camp week photos require a panoramic iPhone setting, when you zoom all the way in, the smiles on those faces haven’t changed a bit! 

Courtney Stiles is the executive director of The First Tee of the Sandhills. Contact her at cstiles@thefirstteesandhills.org.

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