Teen golfer ready for long-awaited Wells Fargo Championship experience
Succeeding TogetherSM essay contest winner Raymond Jin’s Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am round, delayed for a year by the pandemic, is set for May 5.
The first tee of Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, stood empty April 29, 2020. That should have been the day Raymond Jin, the then-17-year-old winner of Wells Fargo and First Tee’s Succeeding TogetherSM 2020 essay contest, hit the opening drive of his Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am round before a gallery of golf fans. Instead, COVID-19 canceled the tournament and delayed the moment.
Jin’s long wait ends May 5. First Tee Greater Trenton (New Jersey) member will tee off at Quail Hollow Club with the PGA TOUR professional of his choice in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I feel super pumped for the Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am,” he said. “I’m most excited about getting some golf wisdom from the pros and getting a snapshot of what it’s like to play professional golf.
“I’ve been playing on my home course more and working out consistently to prepare for the experience. What I really hope to take away is golf and life wisdom from my playing partner. But most of all, have fun and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”
Jin earned the right to play by winning the 2020 Succeeding Together essay contest, open to more than 30,000 participants of First Tee®, a youth development organization that prepares kids for new challenges by building their confidence, resilience, and inner strength through golf and programming based on nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment.
Due to COVID-19 and the tournament’s cancellation in 2020, the Succeeding Together essay contest was canceled for 2021, but will return in 2022.
“It’s great that First Tee and Wells Fargo recognize the spirit of community that is so important to me.” — Raymond Jin
“It’s great that First Tee and Wells Fargo recognize the spirit of community that is so important to me,” said Jin, whose First Tee Greater Trenton chapter was among 15 nationally receiving grants in 2021 to incorporate Wells Fargo’s Hands on Banking® financial education program into instruction as part of an increased focus on financial health.
“While I know it wasn’t possible for me to play in 2020 as planned because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I can’t wait to represent that same spirit now. I’ve become a new and improved me, both physically and mentally, during the pandemic, which helped confirm to me that what truly motivates me is a desire to help others reach their full potential.”
Jin knew he was a Succeeding Together contest finalist in 2020, but didn’t know he’d won until he received a video from Wells Fargo on April 1, 2020. Sitting at his laptop, he watched 2019 Wells Fargo Championship winner Max Homa deliver the good news while his mom recorded his reaction.
“I had a chance to read your winning essay and must say, I was really impressed,” Homa told Jin in the video. “Whether you choose me or not, I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.”
A panel of judges selected Jin’s essay from entries representing 43 different chapters of First Tee in 25 different states.
In his winning essay, Jin shared how First Tee’s core value of perseverance helped him mature as he cared for his mother during her breast cancer treatment. He said it’s the same value that also allows him to excel in golf — a sport defined not by mistakes, but how they’re overcome.
His essay gives homage to 1913 U.S. Open winner Frances Ouimet — considered the father of amateur golf because of his rise from working-class roots to excel in a sport primarily played then by the wealthy. The same desire to broaden opportunities for all students in Trenton led Jin to create his own nonprofit in 2019 called Young Leaders of America. It creates mentorship opportunities for underserved youth with professionals in business, the arts, and sports.
Jin is also president of WeCare, a student-led nonprofit that built a women’s health center in Uganda and libraries in China as part of its mission to raise money to meet global infrastructure needs. During COVID-19, WeCare spearheaded donations from the local Chinese American community in Trenton totaling more than $41,000 for local first responders, senior centers, and other groups on the front lines of the pandemic.
With schools closed, Jin launched an online mentorship program to keep his First Tee chapter connected while they couldn’t meet on the golf course. And to lift community spirit and morale, Jin, an award-winning violinist, organized a virtual music concert.
Along with announcing Jin as essay contest winner, The Wells Fargo Foundation and Champions for Education, the nonprofit organization that manages and operates the tournament, announced more than $1.2 million in grants to help the region recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wells Fargo’s $775,000 in contributions supported organizations providing food, school supplies, and online tutoring assistance for students. A donation to the CMS Foundation also helped fund a teacher residency program used to fill teaching positions when schools reopen.
The money was part of $175 million that Wells Fargo awarded to community nonprofits in global financial relief to customers, employees, and communities impacted by COVID-19.
Ed Benson, executive director of First Tee Greater Trenton, said Jin, who joined in 2014, is the chapter’s first Succeeding Together contest winner.
“Raymond is an incredible leader and mentor to our junior participants,” Benson said. “He has a big heart and is always thinking of others and how he can contribute to the organizations he belongs to. He’s a gem, and will be successful in whatever he chooses to do in life.”
Added Robert Connelley, First Tee Greater Trenton’s program director and the golf coach, “Raymond is definitely a model First Tee participant among his peers and our younger participants and lives his life by our nine core values.”
Introduced to First Tee by a friend of his mother, Jin said the chapter has transformed him from a shy follower to confident leader who hopes to find business success and continue lifting others through mentorships so they can achieve their dreams.
Jin will begin studies at Yale University Aug. 24.
“I hope to pursue their Ethics, Politics, and Economics major, which combines the studies of philosophy, politics, and economics into one major,” Jin said. “I plan to keep playing golf in a club sport capacity and also plan to continue playing my violin and to take lessons at the Yale School of Music.
“First Tee’s nine core values provided an outline to follow for improving my character for the better and to achieve academic and other life goals,” he said. “I chose to follow that path and see where it would take me.”