Giving Back with The First Tee of The Triad

Joel Sandman, GRI
Published on February 7, 2019

Giving Back with The First Tee of The Triad

Golf is much more than a game to me. It has allowed me to go to beautiful places, meet incredible people who have become lifelong friends and in many ways, shaped me into the man I am today.

My History with The Game of Golf

Many of you know that I have a long history with the game of golf. My first job was in the bag room at Bristol Harbour. I went to apply as soon as I turned 14 and was able to obtain my work permit with New York State.
My younger and older brothers were both naturals and it drove me insane that they could both beat me. I quickly got hooked on the game and spent countless hours hitting range balls and working on my short game.

The Head Golf Professional at the club, Joe Lusardi, took notice of the dedication that my brothers and I showed and started working with us, providing lessons free of charge. Our mom would routinely drop us off at the golf course at 5:00 am and wouldn’t pick us up until 9:00 pm, we practically lived there! My handicap dropped from near a 20 to a 5 within a year of working at the club and I began to realize that collegiate golf was a possibility.

I’ve met many of my closest friends through the game of golf. Some of my best memories took place on the golf course.

Joe quickly became one of my closest friends and mentor. During this time of my life, my dad was travelling a lot for work. I usually would only see him 4-5 times a year for a few days to a week at a time. Joe recognized the need for a positive role model and stepped up, no questions asked. We had many late night putting competitions or matches that came down to the wire as daylight was fading.

It was more than just golf though, Joe always kept things fun and put incentive systems in place for me and my bothers. If we could maintain straight A’s in school, he would take us on a surprise road trip. If one of us didn’t keep up our end, we had to wash and wax his Jeep in front of our co-workers in the middle of the parking lot.

All of this taught me the importance of hard work, accountability and the obligation we have to care for others.

My Time as a PGA Professional

Following my junior year at Carolina, I decided that I wanted to pursue golf as a career and began my apprenticeship with the PGA of America. I called up Joe, lined up a summer job at The Country Club of Mendon and committed myself to the profession. Joe was the professional that I aspired to be. During my career I always showed up early, stayed late and most importantly, tried to stay active in promoting junior golf. I had received so much from this game, it was my duty to give back.

Clowning around after a round at Forsyth Country Club.

The junior golfers are what made all the early mornings and late nights worth it. I had the opportunity to work with so many great kids, some of which went on to play at the next level and others who just made being at work a joy.

I had one student who reminded me so much of myself when I was younger. He was going through some difficult things in his personal life and I recognized that he could use a little guidance. I kept a room set up for him in my house when his parents needed someone to watch him, he would come stay a few days with me. I was completely unprepared for this, I was 25 or 26 years old and had no idea how to care for a kid but I did my best.

One of the Junior Ryder Cup teams during my time at Old Town Club. Working with junior golfers was the highlight of my career.

Spending time with all the kids made me a better person. I gained so much more than I ever gave and I can’t wait to begin volunteering with The First Tee of The Triad.

The First Tee of The Triad

To learn more about the First Tee, check out their website here. If you are interested in volunteering, they can always use good people even if you don’t know the first thing about golf. This is a great opportunity to make a positive impact on a young person’s life and I hope you will consider it!

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