Ben Spitz, like Giavanna Bolognese before him, is the recipient of singular recognition through his work with The First Tee of western New York. Spitz is a multi-year letterman with the Orchard Park high school golf team, and qualified for the NYSPHSAA championship last spring. As a senior captain of the Quaker squad, he looks to repeat his performance at the 2018 sectionals. Ben recently took time out from his schedule to answer our spate of questions. Have a look.
My name is Ben Spitz and I attend Orchard Park High School here in WNY. Golf first became of interest to me when I was very young and my grandfather put a few old clubs in my hands. While this was the first taste I had of the game, The First Tee pulled me in and sparked my love for golf. At Harvest Hill, the coaches kept me wanting to come back as a PLAYer and later Par participant.
2. How did you become involved in The First Tee of WNY? What do you like most about it?
I became involved in The First Tee of WNY about seven years ago. Looking for a way to get me involved in the game, my parents found The First Tee and it seemed like the perfect option. Harvest Hill being less that fifteen minutes from my home, it was incredibly convenient. Time went on and The First Tee quickly grew to become a larger and larger part of my life. Springs and summers began to be spent at the golf course, both as a participant and later, a coach. My favorite aspect of The First Tee as a participant has to be the skills that can be applied to both the golf course and throughout life, such as STAR. With spectacular coaches like Patty Jordan Smith and others, we learn to apply these skills to many aspects of our life during classes with activities and drills.
3. At some point, you got older and began to help out as a mentor. What kept you around to do that and what did you take away from it?
Helping out as a volunteer coach started a few years ago, and my interest for it only grew as that time went on. As a coach, few things are better than helping a kid out and watching them smack their next shot down the middle. When they look back at you with a delighted face, it makes you come back the next day. Another great part as a coach is when a kid comes to class just jumping with excitement and can’t wait to play some baseball golf, go through an obstacle course, and make some putts. Coaching these kids has definitely helped me as an individual by increasing my confidence, improving my personal skills, and has helped my decision making skills.
4. How has The First Tee impacted your life and golf away from TFTWNY?
The First Tee has definitely made a huge impact on my personality as well as my golf game. By the time I had finished my PLAYer and Par certification, I had that handshake and the basic interpersonal skills down. Years later, I am still applying what I learned in those classes when I meet new people and I now feel confident in myself that I will make a good impression. As far as golf, The First Tee jump started my game and just kept improving it. My pre shot routine, my thought processes, and my attitude all reflect what The First Tee has taught me.
5. You’ve been invited to participate in a national summit/event through The First Tee. What did you bring home with you?
I attended the Lifeskills and Leadership Academy held at Michigan State University this summer. This week was absolutely incredible. It was truly an experience that I will never forget. At the Lifeskills Academy, I learned new drills, games, activities, and warm-ups. The coaches taught me many activities I can use at our chapter here in WNY, but most importantly, I learned many life lessons. The coaches and chaperones showed me to be grateful for everything we had and to appreciate every moment. I learned to appreciate every little thing that someone does for you. I made friendships in Michigan that will last a lifetime, despite the fact that many of those friends live on the opposite side of the country. Lifeskills was a once in a lifetime opportunity that has taught me more than I can describe.
6. What are your future plans for education and golf?
My plans for both of these goes hand in hand. One goal I have is to play collegiate golf in a couple years. Golf is one of few passions that I have and I hope to stay in competitive golf for as long as I can. Outside of golf, I am looking to major in environmental sciences and hopefully go on to a career in something I love, instead of a just a job to make money.
7. What’s the most important The First Tee core value to you?
While there is a few core values that stand out to me, perseverance has been the most important to me these last few years. Both in golf and life, everyone goes through slumps and rough times where they never think they can get back up. What I believe separates the population is the ability to get back up again and keep moving forward. I have experienced this multiple times in my golf game and everyday life. I think that perseverance means to believe in yourself and working harder the harder life gets. Without perseverance, almost nothing could be accomplished.