“From The First Tee of Spartanburg and Cherokee County please welcome Grace Vaughan!”
An introduction like that is what most professionals receive when they step up to the first tee at a PGA Tour event. Grace Vaughan will hear something like that when she gets set to play in the Wells Fargo Pro-Am at Quail Hollow.
“I may get a little nervous with all the people around, but I think I can deal with it,” said the Chesnee High School student.
Vaughan won a national contest sponsored by Wells Fargo for 1st Tee golfers. She answered two essay question in the 2015 Succeeding Together contest. Her response was chosen as the first place prize winner from thousands of entries from around the country.
“I’m on Twitter a lot and I just saw this contest and thought I would enter. it was the last day and I filled out the entry and sent it in,” she said.
It was on the spur of the moment and Vaughan never even checked with her family. “She told me she had entered and I didn’t even get a chance to check her spelling or grammar,” said her mom April. “She did it all by herself,” she said.
Vaughan was notified a few weeks ago. The call came while she was in class and she had to be excused for a few minutes to call the Wells Fargo people back.
“I went out in the hall and called and they told me that I had won. It was just crazy. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t. They asked me to keep it quiet until they made the official announcement,” she said.
Vaughan answered questions about how to apply the life skills she has learned at The 1st Tee. Her answers included her life’s experience dealing with a medical condition.
Grace was born with hereditary spherocytosis, a rare blood disorder. Vaughan wrote about how the 1st Tee helped her learn to deal with bullies who made fun of her condition.
She also wrote about how she has been able to give back to the groups that helped her, The Greenville Hospital Children’s Cancer Center and Camp Courage. After going to the camp as a younger child she now goes back to help as a counselor. You can read Grace’s full essay at http://www.succeedingtogether.org/contest.
“When I found out she won I thought the prize was just to play in the pro-am, but she won a lot more,” said her mom. In addition to playing at Quail Hollow, she also received a $500 Visa Gift Card, accommodations for her and a family member in Charlotte during the tournament. She will receive VIP treatment to and at the course and she also receives a $3,500 cash prize.
Maybe the best prize is that Grace gets to pick any pro in the field to play on their pro-am team. Last week Rory Mcllroy notified the Charlotte tournament that he would play. Grace got her first choice, she will play with her favorite Mcllroy in the Wells-Fargo Pro Am.
Vaughan has been in the 1st Tee program at Woodfin Ridge since it began. She got interested in golf watching tournaments on TV with her grandfather.
“We were going to go to The Creek to get Grace in the program, but then they started the 1st Tee at Woodfin and we were the first ones to sign up,” said April Vaughan.
Grace has earned the rank of Eagle in the program. It is the highest rank that can be achieved. She is still taking classes, but she also helps with the younger golfers.
“She is a real inspiration to the kids,” said Audrey Church, the 1st Tee director at Woodfin Ridge. “She can relate to them and help them understand all about the program,” she added.
Since Chesnee High School does not have a girl’s golf team Grace has played on the Boiling Springs team. Last summer she started playing more competitive golf on the Hootie & the Blowfish Summer Series.
“I wanted to learn the game before I tried to compete and I think I’m at the point I can do that now and I’m looking forward to this summer,” she said.
Some young golfers have been hesitant to join the 1st Tee program because of the idea that it is a lot of class work. Teaching the life skills and core values are important, but so is golf.
“They make it a lot of fun and the lessons come while we are playing golf. We play different games and we learn a lot of the life skills,” said Vaughan.
Getting ready to play on a PGA Tour course in front of a big crowd has Grace practicing as much as she can. “I met a former member at Quail Hollow and he told me to practice hitting out of very tall grass and deep bunkers,” she said.
A production crew visited with Grace at her home, Woodfin Ridge, her school and the Cancer Center to produce a video special for The Golf Channel. It is scheduled to be shown May 13th.
Now Vaughan has to pick out her outfit and get ahead on her school work. She does not want to worry about anything except playing in Charlotte.
“I’m not worried about my score, I just want to enjoy the experience because 10 years from now I won’t remember the score, just the experience, and it is going be great,” concluded Vaughan.