Wells Fargo has announced the winners of Succeeding TogetherSM, an annual essay contest for participants of The First Tee® youth development program celebrating the importance of working together to achieve life goals.
The grand prize winner is Gerry Jones Jr., 16, from The First Tee of Hampton Roads. As the winner, Jones gets to play Eagle Point Golf Club May 3 in Wilmington, North Carolina, alongside the PGA Tour pro of his choice in the 15th Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am.
‘I was a little bit shocked’
Financial Advisor Timothy Harrison of Wells Fargo Advisors surprised Jones with the news of his grand prize win April 8 during a ceremony at the headquarters of The First Tee of Hampton Roads in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“Gerry’s desire to do something in the community, and to make things better for the lives of other children, is so evident,” Harrison said. “He not only serves as a First Tee Character Education Golf Coach, but has personally raised more than $12,000 for the American Junior Golf Association to support scholarships giving other junior golfers the chance to compete.
“I know he’ll continue to represent his chapter and the sport well, and will follow a wonderful legacy of winners who truly represent the Nine Core Values of The First Tee, and the values we also share as Wells Fargo.”
The First Tee uses golf to build character and promote healthy choices through the values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment.
Hearing he’d won the Succeeding Together contest, Jones cried tears of joy with his mom, Marquetta, as the crowd cheered and his dad, Gerry Sr., who first introduced him to the sport at age 3, beamed nearby.
“I was a little bit shocked,” Jones said of the prize-winning moment that was the result of his second Succeeding Together contest entry. “I’ve seen other junior golfers win this award before and seen them play in the pro-am, so I decided to apply last year.
“I wasn’t a finalist then but decided, ‘Why don’t you do it again?’ It’s a real honor to win, and I can’t thank The First Tee and Wells Fargo enough. I can’t wait to go down there (to Wilmington) and play. It’s going to be a blast.”
Inspired by his favorite golfers
A home-schooled sophomore who loves physics and golf and hopes to one day pursue a career as a scientist or engineer, Jones counts PGA Tour star Bryson DeChambeau among his favorites. DeChambeau has tapped his physics studies at Southern Methodist University to produce one of the game’s most unique swings, using a set of clubs that are all the same length.
“He basically produced a breakthrough in the game, and I know I can use my golf and other talents like that,” said Jones, who also wants to help train future leaders.
“I really want to pass on what I’ve learned to the next generation,” he said. “I believe that, whatever you’re trying to do, it’s important to work hard at being better than the day before, and that’s one of the few ways you can progress as a person, and lead others.”
Jones hopes another one of his PGA Tour favorites, golfer Rickie Fowler, joins the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship field so he can choose to play with him in the pro-am.
Jones was supposed to play with Fowler once before, during a trip to Florida he earned as one of the top fundraisers in the American Junior Golf Association’s Leadership Links charity event, but the event was rained out.
“A storm came up out of nowhere as we were literally standing on the first tee,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to this time, and hopefully I’m going to be able to play a round of golf with him.”
‘Changing young lives for the better’
Wells Fargo became one of the national trustees of The First Tee in April 2015 and has committed to provide $1 million to the nonprofit through 2020. The company created the Succeeding Together contest specifically for the more than 30,000 teenage participants of The First Tee — asking participants to write an essay about the importance of having, and being part of, a “go-to team.”
A panel of judges from Wells Fargo, The First Tee, and the Wells Fargo Championship tournament office awarded the grand prize to Jones and first prizes to:
“We’re excited to announce the winners of our Succeeding Together contest and are really proud of all the wonderful stories that the contest participants shared through their essays,” said Gary Korotzer, head of Wells Fargo Marketing and Brand Strategy and Community Bank Marketing. “They are powerful stories that show how working together with organizations like The First Tee is changing young lives and our communities for the better.”
All four winners will receive a four-day, three-night paid trip for two to Wilmington to attend and get an inside-the-ropes experience at the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship, May 4-7. As the grand prize winner, Jones will also take part in a Succeeding Together golf clinic, where he will see Wells Fargo dedicate the new home of The First Tee of Greater Wilmington, play in the pro-am, and meet PGA Tour pros.