Teen’s dream of golfing with a pro delayed by pandemic
Succeeding TogetherSM essay contest winner Raymond Jin has another year to prepare for his Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am tee time.
The first tee of Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, stood empty April 29, 2020, on what should have been Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am day. With a large gallery of fans looking on, Raymond Jin, the 17-year-old winner of Wells Fargo and First Tee’s Succeeding TogetherSM essay contest for 2020, would have hit the opening drive of his round with the PGA TOUR pro of his choice.
Instead, because of COVID-19, the member of First Tee of Greater Trenton (New Jersey) has to wait one more year for the moment.
Jin and the 2021 contest winner will join the PGA TOUR pros of their choice May 5, 2021, at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, the golf club in Washington, D.C., where the tournament is relocating for one year as Quail Hollow Club hosts the 2021 President’s Cup.
“While I would love to have bragging rights and tell my friends I played golf with Tiger Woods, what I really want to take away from my experience at the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship is the ability to meet golfers I’ve been watching for most of my life on TV,” Jin said. “I’m looking forward to interacting with and learning from them, and connecting with people from all walks of life through the tournament.”
The Succeeding Together essay contest is 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.
“It’s great that First Tee and Wells Fargo recognize the spirit of community that is so important to me, even in the way this contest works and the opportunities it creates for people like myself,” he said. “While I know it wasn’t possible for me to play this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I can’t wait to represent that same spirit at next year’s event.”
Jin knew he was a Succeeding Together contest finalist, but didn’t know he’d won until he received a video from Wells Fargo April 1. 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 in 2021 at the Wells Fargo Championship in Washington, D.C.”
“I had a chance to read your winning essay and must say, I was really impressed.” Max Homa
Jin’s essay was selected 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 and allows him to excel in golf — a sport defined not by mistakes, but by overcoming them.
His essay gives homage to 1913 U.S. Open winner Frances Oimet — 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.
He’s also involved in WeCare, a student-led nonprofit that has built a women’s health center in Uganda and libraries in China and Tibet as part of its mission to raise money to meet global infrastructure needs. During COVID-19, WeCare has raised nearly $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 can’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 this year’s 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 will support organizations providing food, school supplies, and online tutoring assistance for students. A donation to the CMS Foundation will also help fund a teacher residency program used to fill teaching positions when schools reopen. The money is part of $175 million that Wells Fargo is awarding to community nonprofits in global financial relief to customers, employees, and communities impacted by COVID-19.
Ed Benson, executive director of First Tee of 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 of 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.
“First Tee’s nine core values provide me an outline to follow for improving my character for the better,” he said. “I chose to follow that path and see where it would take me.”