When you hear news of NBA players receiving max contracts or football players earning millions on endorsement deals, it serves as motivation to compete at the highest level, so you too can one day live a fruitful life. While those particular circumstances aren't guaranteed to everyone, the promise of mentorship and a pathway to long-term success are available for those who not only choose golf as their sport of choice, but enlist the guidance of retired professional Nyre Williams to help them learn valuable life lessons along the way. 

As one of the coaches of the Drew Charter School’s Varsity Boys Golf Team, who are also all participants of the First Tee of Metro Atlanta, Williams coached his side to a Class A Public State Championship. The team had a statement victory, outscoring the two-time defending state champions by over 15 strokes. This triumph makes them the first Atlanta Public School team to win a State Championship in golf, and the first quad made up of an all-Black team and coaching staff to win a State Championship in golf in Georgia.

Williams also serves as Program Director of The First Tee of Metro Atlanta Foundation in Atlanta. A golfer for more than two decades himself, Williams earned a scholarship to play at Tennessee State. Upon graduation in 1993, Williams continued playing and officially turned pro in 2003. He joined the First Tee of Nashville program and subsequently completed his First Tee Coach certification. His desire to make the lives of children better remain a catalyst behind his decision to remain involved with the First Tee Metro of Atlanta Foundation. Additionally, he went on to complete his First Tee Coach and U.S. Golf Teachers Federation certifications.

Founded in 1995, First Tee of Metro Atlanta is a nonprofit dedicated to teaching children how to play golf, while simultaneously preparing them for the real world through teachable moments. Their mission statement is profound; “To impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.”

Blavity had a chance to catch up with Williams, and he spoke candidly about his experience coaching the team to their first title and some of the many principles he hopes to pass on to his athletes. 

Blavity: What has been a major highlight for you during your time mentoring a young group of Black men to learn and enjoy the game of golf? 

Nyre Williams: There are several to choose from, but for me, the biggest highlight would be the capacity to teach these men things they wouldn’t have an opportunity to learn outside of the game. This platform has allowed them to recognize their worth and aspire to goals they wouldn’t have otherwise thought of accomplishing.

Golf has granted our athletes access to unique opportunities. For example, there are scholarships available to play junior golf at some of the top institutions in Atlanta. Those who benefit from those grants then travel across the country to different and competitive golf academies. 

Another highlight is the opportunity to play at Pebble Beach Golf Course, one of the most revered properties in the country. Under my leadership, at least one player from First Tee National Academy has been selected to play there since 2006. To be able to see two players get selected at least three times to play at Pebble Beach has been beyond rewarding.

Blavity: Black men mainly have Tiger Woods to consider role models in this sport. How do you plan on changing that narrative? 

Williams: First Tee’s benefits span far beyond learning how to play a great game of golf. We also encourage life goals and healthy habits. To be honest, our goal isn’t to breed professional golfers. However, when they work with us, the option to play golf is there. In fact, there were several Black men before Tiger Woods to rose to prominence in this profession. What sets him apart is that Tiger was the first to win Majors on the PGA tour. Our mission is simple: we just want to develop well-rounded athletes. 

Blavity: Outside of your state championship win, what has been your favorite or most profound experience serving as executive director for Drew Charter High School boys golf team? 

Williams: My most profound moment is the continuous opportunity to have an impact on a child who loves the game and they can hopefully attend university on a scholarship. We don’t aim to focus on just athletic, but also academics. Thankfully, our system is well-rounded enough that we can target both. If one of our athletes succeed in their personal endeavors then we hope they will consider returning as a volunteer or contributing to our organization as a donor.

Blavity: Why is it more important for more Black boys and men to enter this sport?

Williams: Golf is a sport that anyone can play regardless of skills. Don’t have to be quick like track, tall like basketball or big like football. Unlike the aforementioned sports that may come with a short playing span, you can play golf for life. 

In addition, golf is a game where it takes character, and you can tell a lot about a person based on how they react to certain circumstances. Finally, it’s probably the No. 1 networking opportunity you can get. Most business decisions can be made over a round of golf, because it merges casual elements but also emphasizes professionalism. 

Blavity: What are some resources you can provide for young Black men who are interested in pursuing golf but don't have access to a putting green or proper material? 

Williams: Start by enrolling in junior programs geared toward Black men, such as First Tee that allow people of all minorities to become connected to the game. First Tee is unique because it is a curriculum-based program and our core values lie in teaching skills you won’t find on the putting green. 

First Tee’s work doesn’t end because some of their players are state champions. On Wednesday, July 3, they announced the field for the 2019 PURE Insurance Championship, a unique event where 78 FirstTee participants are paired up with 78 PGA TOUR Champions players in an official PGA TOUR Champions event, which happens this September in Pebble Beach, California. Rising senior Anthony Ford will represent First Tee of Metro Atlanta at the tournament, where he will compete for the Pro-Junior Team trophy.

Throughout his high school career, Ford has impressed and subsequently earned the distinction to compete at this level. The teen made the roster of the All-State golf team his freshman and junior years, won the GA Region 3 Championship and was one of 18 golfers to be invited to the 2018 Congaree Golf Initiative in South Carolina. Additionally, Anthony served as captain of the championship-winning varsity golf team at Drew Charter School Varsity this past year. Outside of golf, Ford is a harpist and thespian, having written and co-directed a one act play at Drew Charter School.

“I am thrilled that Anthony has been selected to participate in the Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach,” Williams said of Ford’s selection via a press release. “Anthony has practiced very hard and is at the top of his game right now. He recently won the Georgia Class A Regional Championship and led his team in the High School Golf National Invitational. I am very excited for him to have this well-deserved opportunity to play with the best of the best.” 

A renowned program dedicated to preparing talented youth for a future in athletics or other endeavors, First Tee of Metro Atlanta and Williams are working hard to introduce a love of golf and an appetite for growth to many deserving teens in the Atlanta area.