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Dec 29, 2023

Ten Years of First Tee — The Lowcountry

Barry Kaufman

Photography By

With your help and support, a treasured community organization celebrates a decade guiding young players toward better futures.

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Over the past 10 years, First Tee–The Lowcountry has done some amazing things. They’ve inspired the youth of our area to not only build on their talents as golfers, but to nurture their own skills as people. They’ve established a magnificent facility for themselves, complete with a 6 hole, par 3 course. And they’ve grown on the strength of their selfless volunteers and coaches through their life skills classes, and added programs in more schools and serving thousands of students. 

All of these accomplishments are amazing. But they can hardly be called surprising. After all, this is a local chapter of a national group who has proven to be a massive positive force for children around the country. And it’s a local chapter that enjoyed almost instantaneous overwhelming support from the community as soon as they planted their flag on Hilton Head Island.

“I remember hearing about the facility when I was first interviewing for the job and thinking about how much debt that was going to entail. But the day it opened, it had already been paid for,” said Pat Zuk, who has served as executive director for the past five years. “That’s a great example of how effectively people have taken this organization to heart.”

During the awards banquet in the spring, First Tee will celebrate not only the many accomplishments of its student athletes, but also the founding donors that were there from Day One, helping the organization achieve its goals. From the Town of Hilton Head Island to several gated communities as well as private citizens of all walks of life, it’s truly been a coalition of community, coming together to drive First Tee forward.

“These founding donors, they’ve helped build a legacy here that’s going to last a very long time,” Zuk said.

That legacy is one that already has a lot to celebrate in its first decade. Whether it’s hosting 7,200 patrons at their facility annually, teaching upwards of 575 kids after school, or growing the number of schools hosting First Tee programs from one to 24, First Tee’s trajectory has launched skyward like a perfectly aimed tee shot. But if you ask Zuk, the biggest accomplishments aren’t in the numbers. 

The greatest accomplishments are in the success that First Tee students enjoy.

“We’ve had four of our participants selected for the Congaree Global Golf Initiative, which is a program that’s just beyond compare,” he said. “For the last two years, our team has finished second in the First Tee National Tournament. We have one student who’s committed to playing D1 golf, and several others who have made verbal commitments.”

It’s a hefty set of accomplishments in which First Tee is content to merely bask in reflection. “It’s a point of pride for us, but really it’s the kids’ accomplishments,” Zuk said. “The fact that we helped develop them, that’s why we do this.”

The “we” Zuk uses speaks to the overwhelming support this community has shown First Tee–The Lowcountry since the beginning. Being 95% volunteer-run, it’s an organization that is deeply indebted to the generosity of this community.

“It’s really gratifying because this chapter has grown so fast, because we have an excellent board of directors who have worked very hard and accomplished a lot,” said Zuk. “And our volunteer coaches do tremendous work. The kids and their families are so grateful for the work they do and they’re a real credit to this community.”

To learn more about First Tee–The Lowcountry’s programs and its 10 years of history, visit 

To learn more about First Tee – The Lowcountry’s programs and its 10 years of history, visit

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