Coach Ron Castillo, First Tee – North Florida

Golf is a fun and challenging platform for growth, helping kids and teens build the confidence to show up to a challenge, the resilience to keep going when they fail, and the inner strength to do the right thing, even with it’s the hard thing. For today’s youth, First Tee provides mentors who help them write their personal growth story. Ron Castillo, First Tee – North Florida Program Director since 2017, has been a part of First Tee since 2001. “I moved back to Atlanta after working as an assistant golf professional in Hilton Head, SC. I called one of my professional mentors and told him I was looking for a job. His reply was, “yes, I’ll always have a job for you. Come by tomorrow.” I have been involved with First Tee ever since. Speaks volumes to having a Go-To Team!” For twenty years he’s been a coach, a mentor and a friend. He can tell you stories about numerous participants and families he’s gotten to know and how their kids have grown to be college graduates, doctors, entrepreneurs, husbands, wives, parents, and yes, professional golfers.  When he joined First Tee, he was ready for the next stage in his career. He stays for something much more personal. “Simply put, I stay because I absolutely love what I do. Being a coach at First Tee has helped me be a better husband and father. I find myself thinking about First Tee lessons when advising my son and making decisions for my household.” Coach Ron shares with us why golf is the perfect sport for learning lifelong skills and fostering personal growth.

Coach Dustin Marsh – Lessons in Leadership

At First Tee, we guide kids to strengthen what’s inside and put it into action because strong character, inner strength and resilience is needed now more than ever. This month we are talking to leaders within our Network about their experiences and key lessons learned over the course of their careers.

Coach Dustin Marsh, First Tee – Central Carolina

What is your current role at First Tee, how long have you been in that role and what is the most rewarding part of your job?

Currently, I am a recognized First Tee Coach. I have been coaching with The First Tee since 2009.

This month we’re celebrating Black History Month and lifting up voices of Black participants, coaches and leaders exploring what it means to be a leader. As a coach, you’re both a mentor and leader to the participants in the program. What does that mean to you?

It means a great deal to me! Many people get to middle age and find themselves in a job or career that they did not foresee. They get caught up in making a living. They may or may not like what they do. I like what I do but, before I started with The First Tee I was not participating in my community as I thought I needed to. I was searching for something to fill a void in my being. When I was young, I was an education major but, life happened and I took an opportunity to work in computer technology. Now that I am coaching with The First Tee, I feel like I’m exercising the same passion I had when I was on a path to be an educator.

How important is it for participants to see diverse leaders like yourself and others coaching at the chapter?

It’s extremely important that our participants experience the program from a diverse range of leaders and with diverse peers. I think specifically about some of the kids I have coached over the years who have gone on to college and professional careers, and I know having diverse coaches was instrumental in not only attracting them to the program, but also keeping them engaged for the long run.  At the end of the day, it’s about making kids feel welcome and comfortable, and when a kid can see themselves in me or another black or brown coach, that increases the likelihood they will want to come back.

Who were some of the strong voices or mentors in your life that inspired you?

Many of my coaches made strong impressions on me for various reasons. Some of my teachers inspired me as well. However, I think the strongest voices in my life were those that exemplified and instilled the importance of decency toward others.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your life or career?

One thing I’m most proud of is my track record of community service, specifically through First Tee – Central Carolina.  I’ve been doing this for over 11 years.  It isn’t always convenient or easy in my schedule, but it has been worth it.  I’m proud that kids have called me a mentor even when I didn’t think I was, and that I’ve been able to help them figure out all how to deal with the hard things life has thrown at them.

Can you give an example of a challenge you have faced in your career and how have you worked to overcome it?

A challenge that I have faced in my career is leading teams of people and how to get the best results possible.  What I’ve learned is that you have to know what motivates them and what their strengths and weaknesses are.  This takes time and building relationships.  Once you know these details, you can put people where they are going to be the most effective and the whole team benefits.  I’ve done the same thing in the First Tee classes I coach.  I try to learn as quickly as I can why a kid is there and what they are looking to get out of the experience.  Once I know this, I can adapt my coaching to best match their needs.  Like we are trained in the First Tee Coach Program, match the activity to the child and not the child to the activity.

How does or can First Tee play a role in bringing more diversity to our game?

I think we must continue to find ways to make golf inviting to a diverse group of people. There isn’t one way to bring more diversity to golf. We have to try every approach we can come up with. It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight. Golf used to be a sport that was available to only those with financial means and making it more inclusive is going to take time and perseverance. There is a lot of untapped talent that golf has yet to tap into. It ultimately comes down to building relationships in your community that are genuine and time tested.  The opportunities to be more diverse can be hard to initially see, but if your focus is on building relationships, the opportunities to engage with black and brown communities will become more apparent.  When it comes to this type of work, don’t worry about being the first one there, focus on being the last one standing.

What leadership advice or concept do you think is most important for your participants to know?

Focus on the process, not the outcome.

Angela “Coach Angel” Whorton, First Tee — Greater Akron

Coach Angel has been an educator for 15 years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Elementary Education from Hampton University, where she attended on a full NCAA Division I scholarship helping lead her team in March Madness. After graduation, Coach Angel traveled extensively and was invited to speak on diversity and educational practices. She began her teaching career in Turkey, teaching English as a Second Language before going back home, to Akron, Ohio where she is currently an educator at the Lebron James IPromise school. Coach Angel was introduced to First Tee 8 years ago when her son, John Ramon, joined the program. She joined in not long after and has been coaching at First Tee — Greater Akron for 7 years.  “I feel it is important to stay involved in the First Tee to offer the kids in my urban community the opportunity to play a sport that they may have not felt was in their realm of abilities.  When we begin working with these athletes we open a whole new world for them while developing their character through the Core Values to instill a solid foundation for success.  I also feel it is essential to have representation in the world of golf and being able to interact and develop friendships and perspectives with people in the golf community that may have otherwise never built a relationship with someone in the Black community such as myself.” Coach Angel is just one of the many inspirational coaches across our network and we invite you to learn more about her journey and thoughts on leadership in the video below.

Meet & Greet: Coach Khaalis Hall

From left to right: Coach Khalilah Hall, First Tee Master Coach Patty Jordan-Smith, and Coach Khaalis Hall
This month, we’re catching up with Level 1 Coach Khaalis Hall, one of the newest additions to our team here at The First Tee of Howard County, along with his wife and fellow Level 1 Coach, Khalilah.
Q: To start, tell me a bit about your background and family.
A: I’m from NJ, and I moved when I was 22 to join the USAF.  I’m still in the military serving at Fort Meade. I used to live in Alaska, Missouri, England, Germany, and Hawaii. I also did a tour in the Middle East. My favorite hobbies are working out and golf. I have two boys (ages 6 & 8) and have been happily married for 18 years.
Q: When did you first get interested in golf?
A: In 2006, a coworker of mine was an avid golfer and I liked Tiger Woods. He took me to a driving range and I became a fan of the game. The best feeling in the world is hitting with your irons in the sweet spot.
Q: How long have you been coaching?
A: I’ve been coaching for a year at The First Tee of Howard County with the PLAYer/PAR level.
Q: Tell me about some of the most significant lessons you learned from coaching. 
A: Don’t talk so much and let the kids perform. They are here to learn, play, golf and enjoy their peers — not to listen to me give a speech. I’ve learned to teach, demo and get out of the way.
Q: What do you think sets The First Tee apart from other golf programs for kids?
A: Teaching the Nine Core Values and incorporating them life skills puts The First Tee into a league of its own. A kid may not make the LPGA/PGA tour, but they can all learn to better themselves, others who come in contact with them, and their environment wherever they go in life.
Q: What would you tell parents who are considering enrolling their child in the upcoming session?
A: Do it. We are here to make better people through the game of golf, and your child will have the opportunity to mature with his/her social skills. Also, you don’t need to buy clubs — we have plenty your child can use!