The First Tee of Monterey County a ‘safe haven’ for local youth
February 08, 2019
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- February 08, 2019
- The First Tee of Monterey County participant Robert Aguayo, 17, receives an impromptu lesson from 2018 Charles Schwab Cup champion Bernhard Langer at the PURE Insurance Championship. (PGA TOUR)
As crowds admire the beauty and glory of Pebble Beach Golf Links this week during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, life and reality are a little different 20 miles down the road in Salinas, California. While the two areas are a short drive apart, they might as well be a world away. In Salinas, crime rates are high, gang violence common, and the city holds the highest homicide rate in the state of California.
In the midst of the crime and violence there is a safe haven for youth. The First Tee of Monterey County, which is located in the most distressed neighborhood of East Salinas, keeps a high percentage of the city’s vulnerable youth safe by providing supervised, healthy activities that help strengthen their resilience to the gang influence and violence. And youth like 17-year-old Robert Aguayo are finding success in school and at home, and learning golf along the way.
“The community I live in is plagued with gang violence,” said Robert, a participant with The First Tee of Monterey County. “I am thankful I have had The First Tee of Monterey County as a safe haven. I have had many friends give in to temptation of the streets, but with the guidance of my family, The First Tee staff, my mentors and following the Core Values, I am on the right path to having a successful future.”
Robert first started visiting The First Tee of Monterey County during school with his first grade class.
Through a partnership with the Alisal Union School District, The First Tee of Monterey County buses more than 9,000 students to their campus every three weeks to learn golf and The First Tee’s Nine Core Values.
Kids like Robert can then take the experience to the next level. Robert quickly became involved with The First Tee’s after school program, and that’s when the doors started opening. Robert began excelling in his golf game, earning him opportunities like playing on his high school’s varsity golf team and being selected for the prestigious Sankaty Head Caddie Camp in Nantucket, Mass. This last September, he was one of 81 juniors from across the country selected for the 2018 PURE Insurance Championship impacting The First Tee, where he played Pebble Beach Golf Links with PGA TOUR Champions player Scott McCarron.
“It has been kind of like the domino effect,” said Marilu Aguayo, Robert’s mom. “One opportunity led to another, and so on.”
The impact has also extended beyond the golf course. Robert is part of the chapter’s Pay it Forward Scholarship & Mentoring Program. Through the program, Robert meets with his mentor, a local university student, five hours every month to help with academics – an area in which he has struggled, but is improving thanks to the program. This spring, Robert will be eligible to earn a $20,000 four-year scholarship to California State University, Monterey Bay through the program. If Robert is selected, he will then become a mentor to a young participant at The First Tee, starting the cycle over again.
“The First Tee has changed my life in many ways,” Robert said. “The First Tee has kept me on the right path that will lead me to success. I have had the opportunity to visit one of the most amazing golf courses, Pebble Beach, and have been able to participate as a standard bearer there at many events over the years. I owe a lot to The First Tee and hope to someday be able to give back in appreciation of all they have done for me.”
To learn more about The First Tee and its programs offered across the country and select international locations, visit www.thefirsttee.org.