TAMPA PALMS – Sixteen-year-old Terese Romeo is passionate about playing golf.
But for her it’s much more than just a game. It’s afforded her the opportunity to be the very best she can be – not only as a golfer but as a human being.
For the past eight years Terese, a Tampa Palms resident, has been actively involved in The First Tee Tampa Bay, a program of the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA that uses the game of golf to also teach youngsters character-building principals meant to guide them in all aspects of their lives.
Mastering the game of golf plus putting into play the program’s nine core values – honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment – has earned Terese an opportunity of a lifetime.
She will compete in the 2013 Nature Valley First Tee Open at California’s famed Pebble Beach Golf Links Sept. 27 – 29. The tournament is billed as an official Champions Tour event and is being chaired by actor Clint Eastwood. Golf legend Arnold Palmer, a First Tee trustee, will serve as its honorary co-chairman.
“An invitation to this event is a goal many teenage participants set and it is exciting to see their hard work and perseverance rewarded,” First Tee CEO Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. said in a statement.
The event is to be televised internationally on the Golf Channel.
Terese was selected by a national panel of judges based on her playing ability and comprehension of The First Tee’s life skills and character education component. She will be among 81 teens ages 14 to 18 from 188 First Tee chapters throughout the country and in select international locations.
“Terese is a great example of all for which The First Tee stands,” said Jeff Leonard, program director for The First Tee of Tampa Bay.
Despite a gymnastics injury to her wrist that required two surgeries, the rising Freedom high junior helped the school’s golf team advance to regional competition and, ultimately, bring home the crown.
In addition, she’s devoted much of her time to teaching young First Tee members at Rogers Park and Terrace Hill golf courses the techniques of the sport – along with the program’s highly stressed core values.
“Golf takes a lot of determination and mental focus, especially when you’re not playing well,” said Terese, who averages an even par on nine holes and a 73 to 74 in 18-hole matches.
The core values that have especially served her well, she said, are confidence and perseverance.
“You always need to believe in yourself and, if you can, you can accomplish anything and perseverance allowed me to continue playing golf (with just one hand for a time) even with my injury,” Terese said.
Her proud mother, Vanessa Romeo, describes Terese as well rounded and an overall “good kid.”
“She’s a happy person who loves helping others, loves animals, loves being an athlete and is passionate about what she does,” said Vanessa. “She is also a ‘solid performer’ in school with a 3.2 grade point average.”
The teen’s father, Ronald “Ron” Romeo, is also thrilled with Terese’s accomplishments as well as her stick-to-it commitment to First Tee.
“A lot of kids her age drop out of the program,” he said.
Terese also has a close relationship with family including her older brother, Jim, who is seven years her senior. He is also the person who introduced her to the game of golf and The First Tee program.
He, in fact, will serve as his sister’s caddy throughout the prestigious three-day golf tourney.
“I’m really psyched,” Terese said. “We’re even talking about wearing matching outs (outfits).”
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]