ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – This story started with an out-of-the-blue textual content message from Brittany Lincicome. The 2-time main winner wished to know if she may get some publicity for her January occasion that advantages The First Tee of St. Petersburg.

“So I’ve no clue what you are able to do …” that first textual content started.

LPGA gamers are typically extra accessible, extra DIY than their male counterparts. Even so, it’s uncommon for a top-tier participant to succeed in out to the media immediately with a pitch quite than an agent or PR company.

However that’s Lincicome. She wasn’t trying to construct up her picture. Her motives have been pure: Increase consciousness and cash for a junior program that has been part of her life since elementary college. Heck, she even provided a spot to remain. (Lincicome lately bought a 5,200-square-foot house that overlooks Boca Ciega Bay for $1.83 million, so there’s loads of room.)

Getting into her 15th yr on the LPGA, the 33-year-old Lincicome has received the previous two season-opening tournaments.

And whereas Pure Silk moved its occasion away from Paradise Island, Bahamas – the place Lincicome is twice a champion – the brand new season-opening Diamond Resorts Event of Champions nonetheless will really feel fairly acquainted. Lincicome warmed up for the LPGA season in recent times by competing towards PGA Tour Champions gamers on the 4 Seasons Golf and Sports activities Membership Orlando, website of the TOC that runs Thursday-Sunday.

Lincicome can’t clarify her January success.

She admittedly practiced extra when she was youthful, has no swing coach and tries to keep away from the driving vary.

“I’m so visible,” she mentioned. “You go stand in an open discipline and hit golf balls. I don’t get it.”

As a substitute, it’s greenback birdie bets along with her membership’s assistant professional that preserve her sharp. She’s at present down $eight and loathing it.

“I don’t need to lose to anyone,” she mentioned, “and I don’t give anyone any strokes.”
(In her protection, Lincicome mentioned, she performs from the information.)

One other means she begins yearly proper: giving again.

Brief offseason this time

Lincicome’s offseason was brief on the “off.” Her December calendar was so crammed we needed to squeeze in our go to on the morning of the 15th, earlier than she and her mother launched into a four-hour-plus drive to Ponte Vedra, Fla., for Len Mattiace’s Professional-Junior Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

After initially lacking the flip into Twin Brooks, a nine-hole course on the south aspect of St. Petersburg, the additional loop across the block helped paint a clearer image of why this was so necessary to Lincicome. Golf, a luxurious sport, should appear out of attain, even out of thoughts to those that actually reside subsequent door. The neighborhood’s dropout price is 50 p.c, mentioned govt director Rick Waltman, and plenty of youngsters who come to their program are being raised in single-parent properties. A lot of these guardians are grandparents.

“It’s been raining for over 24 hours,” Lincicome texted, adopted by two furiously orange emojis. She was determined to point out off The First Tee’s latest addition and the kids who profit from it.

They trickled in that morning, youngsters of all ages and races, and performed video games alongside Lincicome on the second ground of this system’s new $767,000 Manning Household Mentoring Heart, named for a beneficiant donor. Waltman led his visitor outdoors to the again deck to elucidate what existed earlier than 2018.

He pointed again towards the Twin Brooks clubhouse, the place a small closet as soon as housed their gear. After which to a patch of grass on the observe vary the place they put up a tent.

“If it rained it was brutal,” Waltman mentioned. “How are you going to handle 500 youngsters out of a tent?”

And if it didn’t rain, it was nonetheless brutal within the unrelenting summer season warmth.

Lincicome kickstarted the efforts for the two-story oasis with a examine for $77,500, her winnings from the 2011 RR Donnelley Founders Cup. Her annual Brittany & Pals Superstar Professional-Am, held this yr Jan. 9, is the most important fundraiser of the yr for the St. Petersburg chapter. Rising up, Lincicome attended Waltman’s junior camps lengthy earlier than this system grew to become a First Tee chapter in 2005.

Household sacrifice led to LPGA success

An eight-time winner on the LPGA, Lincicome is aware of how a lot her middle-class household sacrificed to get her on tour. And he or she is aware of the sorts of doorways golf can open. Offering a spot to study for teenagers whose dad and mom can’t afford it, Lincicome mentioned, all the time has been the No. 1 objective.

“It’s all the time no matter you want,” Waltman mentioned. “There’s by no means been an ‘I can’t try this.’ She’s the true deal.”

Thirty-five p.c of the children who come by means of their program are on scholarship, Waltman mentioned. Greater than 1,000 youngsters come by means of this system’s three programs yearly, not counting the outreach efforts at native faculties. The flexibility to supply these reductions has modified the face of junior golf in St. Pete, he mentioned.

“In the event you return to the times after I was educating the common junior program (previous to The First Tee),” mentioned Waltman, “there have been no black youngsters in junior golf. Interval. From 1994 to 2005 I can keep in mind one child, and that was Jim Dent’s son.”

It was round that point that Jonathan Lampley, identified on the program as “Tiger,” walked within the door. Lampley was within the third grade when he first got here to The First Tee. He balked on the thought initially.

“I mentioned ‘Grandma, who performs golf?’ ” Lampley recalled.

He bought hooked instantly, and the Boca Ciega Excessive Faculty junior is now among the many county’s finest gamers.

But it surely wasn’t all the time a clean trip. There was a time when Lampley was failing the seventh grade. Even now Waltman feels badly about the truth that it wasn’t till the 11th hour that he realized the once-star scholar had fallen thus far behind. When the principal referred to as from Thurgood Marshall Basic, a rigorous tutorial college that sits throughout the road from Twin Brooks, Lampley was in dire straits.

“If he makes straight As for that final 9 weeks will you cross him?” Waltman requested.

The principal agreed however mentioned it wouldn’t occur.

Waltman arrange two tutors, together with his personal son, who met every day with Lampley after college in a room subsequent to the principal’s workplace. 9 weeks later he had a report card filled with As and an academic path that was again on monitor.

Establishing a mannequin for others to comply with

His story isn’t distinctive.

Now Lampley is a mannequin for youthful youngsters to comply with, with regards to swing demonstrations and far more.

“I used to look as much as these youngsters,” Lampley mentioned. “Now they give the impression of being as much as me.”

A pint-sized Justice Heatwole, along with her puffy pink vest, pastel pants and vibrant pink footwear, squatted down subsequent to her putter (pink grip) to speak golf. Her father, Mark, stood quietly to the aspect taking all of it in. The bartender at Pasadena Yacht and Nation Membership signed up his daughter for a camp at The First Tee on the urging of one among Pasadena’s members – Lincicome.

“This program is every thing to us,” Mark mentioned. “I’m a single father and have custody of my daughter. It’s simply me and her. This previous summer season I saved up $500 for my 5-year-old daughter to come back right here for a pair weeks. They gave me all my a reimbursement the following day.”

Mark choked up on the gesture. Justice is now a member of the after-school program. She involves the middle to do her homework, makes tasks within the new artwork studio and wins long-drive contests. Mark calls The First Tee a beacon for the group.

Fundraising efforts over time have included poker tournaments, fishing tournaments, a breakfast of champions, a seafood pageant. Most of the occasions are weather-dependent, and, nicely, asking for cash doesn’t get any simpler.

Waltman wished this system to turn out to be extra self-sufficient, and earlier this yr The First Tee of St. Petersburg eBay golf store launched. What started at the back of John Kiebzak’s automobile exploded with assist in explicit from residents of The Villages, a golf-centric Florida retirement group.

The primary ground of the brand new constructing is brimming with potentialities. The “Donate a Membership, Assist a Child” program not solely outfits First Tee contributors with gear, it helps pay the payments.

Waltman and his group take their trailer to space golf equipment to gather gear that may be cleaned up and offered for charity. The celebrities who take part in Lincicome’s occasion – who should not paid to be there – additionally donate garments, golf equipment and footwear.

There are roughly 4,500 listings. Waltman mentioned they’ve employed school college students to assist catalog and run the enterprise. The objective is to fund a $1 million endowment over the following 10 years to assist help this system yearly.

“‘Digging it out of the grime’ is what we generally refer the eBay operation to,” mentioned Waltman. “Taking a unclean outdated membership and cleansing it up and placing a brand new grip on it and turning it into a couple of {dollars}. We try to show the children that onerous work nonetheless works.”

Eight minutes down the highway from Twin Brooks seems like one other stratosphere pulling as much as the guard gate. Lincicome principally bought her Florida mansion whereas dashing to the primary tee at a event in New Zealand. The realtor referred to as whereas she was warming as much as say that a suggestion was on the desk. Do no matter it takes, mentioned Lincicome, and signed the final doc on the tee field.

Typical evening? Publix and Uno

Lincicome doesn’t act in a different way now because the proprietor of an $1.83 million house than she did as a child. Nights along with her husband, Dewald Gouws, typically embrace a run to Publix and a recreation of Uno.

“We’re like 80-year-old folks already,” she joked.

Their new chocolate lab, Dexter, a shock that was ready for Lincicome when she returned from China final fall, offers lovable leisure.

Dexter quickly will be part of the couple a number of occasions every week on their 24-foot Sheaffer boat, christened “Taking Reduction” by a Twitter follower.

Gouws, a local South African and former long-drive smasher, wasn’t a lot of a fisherman after they met. Now he’s on the boat greater than his spouse.

“I simply need to catch Moby Dick,” mentioned Lincicome, who as soon as hooked a 350-pound goliath grouper. “I need to catch the most important fish I can probably get. My husband desires to catch dinner.”

The couple is making an attempt to begin a household. Lincicome used to suppose she’d retire earlier than she had youngsters, however the way in which the tour is trending, she mentioned it’s “exhausting to cease and stroll away altogether.”

Plus, a number of of her friends are getting ready to balancing motherhood and tour life for the primary time in 2019. She may comply with.

For 30 years Lincicome’s dad and mom have operated A Little one’s Alternative Day Care Heart in Pinellas Park. Her mother, Angie, notes that Brittany stays massive on naps as a result of everybody of their lives naps from midday to 2 p.m.

Lincicome appreciates the worth of a robust help system. The phrase “household” comes up typically when coaches and contributors speak about The First Tee.

Antonio Johnson, a gregarious 16-year-old who lives inside strolling distance of Twin Brooks, has been part of this system for 10 years and works there within the summers. He marvels on the variety of graduates who come again yr after yr to go to. Johnson credit First Tee coaches for serving to him get into the Admiral Farragut Academy, one among solely two Honor Naval Colleges within the nation.

When requested what he finally desires to do, Johnson smiled and mentioned, “I need to be remembered for one thing. One thing nice.”

The scholars at The First Tee of St. Petersburg are receiving strong golf fundamentals. However that’s not why Lincicome reached out. It’s every thing else that’s happening at this protected haven that’s value repeating.

“All we’re actually making an attempt to do is give them an opportunity,” Waltman mentioned. “Each child deserves an opportunity.” Gwk

(Observe: This story seems within the January 2019 situation of Golfweek.)

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