As a golfer, Jeep Patrick doesn’t like looking at the leaderboard. Because the numbers next to his name might tell the story of how he’s faring against the rest of the field, but they can’t convey how well he’s playing.
They can’t tell, for example, whether he displayed character by offering words of encouragement when another golfer is struggling, or congratulations when they make that clutch shot. The leaderboard doesn’t show the perseverance it takes to keep playing when you’re five strokes behind.
Karen Ferree, wife of the late Jim Ferree, with Jeep Patrick
This past September, that’s all the leaderboard showed him after his first set at the Chechessee Creek Club Championship. Playing as a junior, among experienced golfers who played with a fiercely competitive mindset, he closed out the first day five strokes back. The leaderboard showed him that. Then he showed the leaderboard a thing or two about playing with integrity, character, and values. And he showed everyone at that championship what First Tee – The Lowcountry taught him about golf.
“No matter what the circumstance, my focus every time I play is to stay focused and take shots one at a time. Coming down to the end it’s all about how consistent you can be. My game plan doesn’t change,” he said.
But that’s just what First Tee – The Lowcountry taught him about the game. The greater lessons that the organization teaches — grouped around the nine core values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment — were on display with every action Patrick took.
“The guy I played with, it was pretty competitive. If he hit a good shot, I told him he’d hit a good shot. I really try to keep the First Tee values in the back of my head,” he said. “Every time I play golf, try to be the best gentleman I can be, and First Tee taught me that from a young age.”
Patrick, now a senior, began practicing at First Tee when he was 11 years old, introduced to the organization through the late Jim “Coach Pro” Ferree. Led by then programs director Nick Dunham, and now under Pat Zuk, he was trained to not only hone his skills as a golfer but also to respect himself, those around him, and the sportsmanship of the game.
“The First Tee has always been somewhere I could go and just practice as long as I want to, but more than that there are some great people there,” said Patrick. “For example, I’ve played in the State Championship for the last three years has been in Myrtle Beach and Pat has come to every single one, even though it’s four hours away. It goes to show how much he cares.”
That support has helped fuel a junior golf career that will soon continue when Jeep Patrick signs his letter of intent this month to play Division I golf at Presbyterian College.
“They have a great golf program,” said Patrick. “They have a great facility, a really good schedule and I really like the coach. Plus, three of my good buddies just committed there.”
It’s a bright future for Jeep Patrick, one that no leaderboard on earth can properly convey. And while that leaderboard at Chechessee Creek may have showed him five shots back on the first day, thanks to the lessons in chipping, putting, driving and — most importantly —persevering, it quickly changed its tune.
“I kind of knew throughout the day I was creeping closer, but I just tried to keep it steady,” said Patrick. “It came down to the last day, and my caddie, who was awesome, said ‘I think you guys are tied right now.’”
That brought Patrick to the final hole, and a six-foot putt to force a playoff. Before even looking at the scorecard, he made sure to congratulate his opponent on a great round, shaking his hand and showing tremendous sportsmanship. It was then that the scorecard revealed his caddy’s mistake – Patrick hadn’t been tied for the lead.
With a one-stroke advantage, the tie on the last hole meant he’d won.
All the leaderboard will tell you is that he had won the tournament. But by reflecting the lessons he’d been taught by First Tee, showing true grace under pressure and sportsmanship with the other players in the field, Jeep Patrick showed why he was a champion.