Giavanna Bolognese was invited to participate in the national leadership summit of The First Tee, an international program that teaches golf and life skills to children from all walks of life. Gia was kind enough to sit down for a moment and answer our questions, even though, as she put it, she is in golf mode right now in school.  Thanks, Gia, for this insight into what The First Tee of western New York means to you.
1. Tell us who you are and how/when/where/why you started to golf.
My name is Giavanna Bolognese, I am a Sacred Heart Academy Junior and I live in Depew.  I started golf when I was seven years old with my grandfather at the East Aurora Country Club.  At the age of eight, I started my first lessons at The First Tee of Western New York.  I began golfing because of my grandfather, but also because I was battling issues with anxiety and when I was at lessons and golfing they went away.

2. How did you become involved in The First Tee of WNY? What did you like most about it.

My mother enrolled me in The First Tee at the age of eight because she saw that I was enjoying golf and loved to be out on the course. I really liked the classes because they made me feel relaxed and involved.  I loved the coaches and the program.

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?

As I grew older, all I wanted to do was be at The First Tee. I felt like myself when I was there and I grew from an anxious shy child into an outgoing, confident person.  I started to volunteer at The First Tee because I really wanted to give back to them what they gave to me.  I also wanted to help other children, like me, develop and learn to really love the sport.

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4. How has The First Tee impacted your life and golf away from TFTWNY?
The First Tee has impacted my life away from TFTWNY in that I have been afforded the confidence to take my love of the sport to different levels. I have started a Golf Club at my elementary school.  In its fourth year, it has been very successful.  I am able to bring all the life skills to the younger kids of the school and help them to learn and grow through golf.  A bonus to this is that, in turn, some of these kids then become members of the TFTWNY.  I love what I do with the school and with the kids.  Even if I have only helped one, and I have made a difference, I have taken what TFTWNY has taught me and passed that along.
5. You have been invited to participate in a national summit/event through The First Tee. What do you anticipate you will learn? If you’ve already been, what did you bring home with you?
As a result of being invited to participate in the Leadership Summit, I anticipate I will learn to take my leadership skills to a new level. I am looking forward to learning more, networking, and meeting friends that will help me to be a better mentor and volunteer.
6. What are your future plans for education and golf?
My future plans for education and golf are to continue to be a part of TFTWNY, and continue to run the golf club at St John Vianney School. I am hoping to someday reach out to other schools and spark interest in the sport.  My primary focus will be young children and golf, and girls in golf.  I would like to work with kids to help them to build confidence, learn life’s skills, and love the game of golf as much as I do.
7. What question haven’t we asked, that you would love to answer? Ask it and answer it, please, and thank you for your time today.
The one question I would’ve asked is…who is your biggest mentor? The person that changed my love of the sport and helped me to grow, believed in me, was patient with me and saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself is my coach, leader, and friend, Patty Jordan Smith.  I also want to say that without my mom’s love and unwavering support, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  She believed in me and allowed me to have the freedoms I needed to grow. 

PS – I shot my first hole-in-one at EACC when I was 15 – last summer.