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PGA TOUR players offer words of encouragement to First Tee of Clearwater participants

March 14, 2013

By Doug Milne, PGA TOUR Staff

Chi Chi Rodriguez once said, “Maintain a childhood enthusiasm for the game of golf.” As a child, enthusiasm - or self-esteem, is all the eventual World Golf Hall of Fame member had, more or less literally. It was his only valuable. A self-taught player raised in poverty in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez learned the game with a tree branch as a club, a metal can as a ball. Self-esteem wasn’t just his prized possession, it was his only hope.

Today, through the Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy and First Tee of Clearwater, Rodriguez is giving back that enthusiasm, without regard to odds seemingly stacked against folks. To young folks who’ve been the victims of abuse, poverty or on the wrong side of the law, Rodriguez is teaching the value of something worth much more than money. He’s teaching self-esteem.

On Wednesday of the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank, PGA TOUR professionals George McNeill and Brian Harman took time out of their day to visit the kids at the Academy and First Tee to re-iterate Rodriguez’ mantra that self-esteem is everything.

“Regardless of where he was or how young or old, Chi Chi always gave back to community,” said two-time PGA TOUR winner George McNeill.  “Kids were always at the front of his heart. They still are. So, having his name attached to anything we can be a part of is just a wonderful feeling.”

“It’s always good for the spirit to come out and give back to the communities, but especially to kids,” said Brian Harman. “It’s nice to see kids in a setting like this, in a setting where we really get to focus on them. This is what doing something worthwhile is all about to me.”

Worthwhile to Rodriguez was instilling in kids the value of their lives, whether they’re pining over a two-foot putt to win a PGA TOUR event or wondering where that next meal is coming from. Chi Chi has done both.

 “The Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy and First tee of Clearwater is a special place,” said Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank tournament director Kevin Krisle. “It’s fantastic to get Brian and George out to talk to the kids, give them advice and show them how the pros do it. It’s unique for these kids to be able to hear what they have to say in an intimate setting. They’ll take something really special away from this.”

Part of the special afternoon included a Q and A with the professionals. An enthusiastic, young girl from the crowd was called upon to come forth and present her question. Standing beside the PGA TOUR players induced a bout of nerves. But confidently, she unfolded the note card in her hands on which were written her words. Following a deep breath, she asked the question. It was delivered with eloquence. A good question about idols, it was delivered with self-esteem.

Chi Chi would’ve been proud, as was everyone in attendance.

READ MORE ABOUT: , Valspar Championship , The First Tee
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