July 7, 2011
By Michael Curet, Special to Together, Anything's Possible
As a 1-handicap, Andrea Wong not only has great balance in her golf swing but in life as well. And, she’s just 16 years old.
Balancing both has come naturally to the soon-to-be high school senior, so why should this week be any different?
As one of 78 juniors from The First Tee chapters around the country set to play in this week’s Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, she’ll have plenty of extra responsibilities.
First, she delivered a speech at Wednesday night’s “Legends and Leaders” event in a room full of Champions Tour players and fellow junior golfers.
On Thursday, she delivered another speech, this time to a room full of reporters as PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem and The First Tee CEO Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. announced “The First Tee Campaign for 10 Million Young People,” an effort to raise $100 million and allow The First Tee to positively influence even more young people, their families and their communities. The First Tee Honorary Chair, President George W. Bush, joined the announcement via videotaped message. Not bad company for a 16-year-old aspiring event planner and entrepreneur.
And last but not least, on Friday, Wong joins her playing partner, Chien Soon Lu, of Taiwan, to tee it up in a field that includes players such as Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Fuzzy Zoeller, Tom Kite, Mark O’Meara, Hal Sutton and tournament chairman Clint Eastwood. Honorary champion for the Nature Valley event is Arnold Palmer.
Wong was hand-picked for Wednesday night’s program to speak on one of The First Tee’s Nine Core Values—which include honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
“I think the value ‘courtesy’ is the most underrated,” said Wong to the room of Champions Tour players and fellow junior golfers. “To me, courtesy goes beyond simply having good manners. To be courteous also means to act with kindness and compassion.”
Wong brought the Nine Core Values of The First Tee full circle recently at San Francisco’s newest chapter in Visitacion Valley where she coached inner-city kids on how to “meet and greet” people.
As part of her First Tee volunteer efforts, she coaches the kids (“the little inksters”), ages 5-7, after school on Fridays. Before school, she can often be found volunteering at the Martin de Porres soup kitchen.
While crediting her parents, May and Hoffman Wong, for being at the center of that balance, Andrea admits that she and twin sister, Alexandra, would not have the life they have today had it not been for The First Tee. Her father, who once owned a small golf shop in Concord, Calif., introduced the game to his children at about age 6.
When San Francisco opened its inaugural First Tee chapter in Wong’s hometown at TPC Harding Park in 2004, it wasn’t long before the Wongs signed up the twins as participants. It was around that time that Andrea and her sister were trying to decide whether to concentrate on dance or golf. At one point, she and her sister even traveled the country playing in a Chinese orchestra.
When the decision was finally made to go with golf, there was no looking back.
“Our parents let us make that decision,” she recalls. “They were very supportive and that helped a lot. When I got involved with The First Tee, it helped me get used to playing tournaments and also handling pressure. Now, I can say it’s had a great influence on my life and made me a better person as well. The First Tee has prepared me to be a future leader of America through patience, perseverance and, above all, courtesy. I’m a big believer in taking ownership of your actions.”
She loves the volunteer opportunities with The First Tee but still finds time to work on her golf game with her sister, as both hope to have the opportunity to play on a college golf team.
“Our abilities are about the same,” Wong said. “Hopefully, by end of the summer, we’ll know what colleges we will be attending. We still try to practice together and play all the AJGA competitions together.”
To date, Wong’s best round was a 69 in a California junior golf tournament. Her most memorable on-course moment, however, might have been the hole-in-one on Christmas three years ago at Los Lagos. A few months later, she had another ace on a different course.
The Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach showcases The First Tee, an initiative of the World Golf Foundation which provides young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop life-enhancing values and life skills through golf and character education.
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