Lake Norman & Mooresville

First Tee players showing their skills nationwide

Casey Lindo
Casey Lindo JOE HABINA

Casey Lindo is playing so much golf this summer he’s on the road nearly as much as he is at home.

As a member of The First Tee of Greater Charlotte, Lindo has played in multiple prestigious events.

In addition to playing in weekly First Tee tournaments in the Charlotte area, Lindo has represented the local chapter at regional and national events in Hilton Head Island, S.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Richmond, Va.

On July 26-30, Lindo will participate in The First Tee Perfect Sense Digital Pro-Am Challenge in Gainesville, Va., near Washington, D.C. As part of the event, Lindo will play an 18-hole round of golf with a PGA Tour professional and other golfers.

“I’m super excited about every opportunity I get,” said Lindo, a rising senior at Mallard Creek High. “I get the opportunity to travel and to get better (at golf). I get to meet people from all over the country.”

The First Tee of Greater Charlotte is the local affiliate of the international nonprofit organization that teaches youth life skills and character development through golf. There are 196 First Tee Chapters in the United States.

The Charlotte chapter, which services about 1,500 youth, ages 5-18 years old, is at the Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park. Among its eight satellite locations are those at Charles T. Myers Golf Club, Sunset Hills Golf Club and Highland Creek Golf Club.

Those who participate in First Tee programs, which include after school programs and summer camps, partake in the program’s certification process, which is a ranking system that emphasizes learning golf, a code of conduct, and First Tee’s nine core life skills values.

I’m super excited about every opportunity I get. I get the opportunity to travel and to get better. I get to meet people from all over the country.

Casey Lindo of the First Tee Program

Players advance through the certification process based on their mastery of the requirements and their age. The ranks begin with the PLAYer introductory level and conclude with the Ace Level, which is comprised of advanced teenagers.

Players at certain levels may apply to participate in regional and national events. The application process typically requires players to answer essay questions in which they express their appreciation of the First Tee program and how it has impacted them.

“The thing that’s cool about all this is we get a lot of younger kids involved,” said Jane Singleton, First Tee of Greater Charlotte executive director. “The kids that stay involved really reap the benefits of it.”

Lindo, 17, started with First Tee in 2010 and achieved Ace status in 2014. His sister, Tori, a rising junior at Mallard Creek, is also a participant.

In mid-June, Casey Lindo attended the International Junior Golf Academy at Hilton Head Island. He was one of 54 First Tee members nationwide to be awarded the opportunity.

In early July, Lindo and Hailey Pendleton, a 13-year old Waxhaw resident, attended the Ace and Eagle Combine in Nashville. On July 21-22, Lindo was selected to help Charlotte defend its Redmond Cup championship in Richmond, Va.

Providence High rising senior Dylan Fisher will travel to California Sept. 25-27 to play at historic Pebble Beach in the Nature Valley First Tee Open, which is an official Champions Tour event.

First Tee players will team up with Champions Tour players and other amateurs in a 54-hole pro-am tournament. Former PGA Tour standouts Colin Montgomerie and Lee Janzen are among those scheduled to play.

“I’m really excited to be able to play Pebble Beach and play with a Champions Tour member,” said Fisher, a three-time all-Southern Mecklenburg 4A Conference player. “It’s exciting to see how they play. We’ve had two other kids from our chapter go before. They watched the pros play the course and were able to improve their games. I hope to improve my game, too.”

Fisher, who also coaches younger First Tee players at Charles T. Myers Golf Club, was a competitive junior tournament golfer when he joined First Tee three years ago. He quickly advanced through the program’s certification levels. Two years ago, he attended a caddy camp at Sankaty Head Golf Club near Nantucket Island, Mass., through his First Tee participation.

As they enter their senior years of high school, both Fisher and Lindo aspire to play golf in college. Next spring, they will be eligible to apply for scholarships granted by First Tee of Greater Charlotte, which has awarded approximately $31,000 worth since 2011.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer: joehabina@gmail.com.

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