First Tee participant turned instructor Olivia Sexton (c) with two of this year’s participants Credit: Morgan Stanley photo

On June 28, 40 local girls ages 11-18 from First Tee of Metropolitan New York (FTMNY) got together with 30 women from Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management for a day of golf and mentorship. First Tee is a youth development organization that combines the game of golf with life skills curriculum to help kids build strength of character that will serve them well in their lives. 

“We thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to impact young women at an earlier stage in life where we see a differential participation in the game, and in finance we know there’s not equal participation between men and women,” said Valerie Wong Fountain, who serves on FTMNY’s executive committee and board of directors and is a managing director at Morgan Stanley. 

“At the First Tee, we see roughly 60% boys versus 40% girls, so we wanted to do something special for the girls,” said Wong Fountain, who started the Women’s and Girl’s Golf & Fore Mentoring Program, now in its eighth year. “One part is a career training experience. … The second part is an on-course experience.”

Wong Fountain, a former collegiate golfer, said knowing the game can be a great career skill given that an estimated 90% of Fortune 500 CEOs play golf. “It’s a tremendous way to build relationships and have access to the C-suite,” she said.

Held at the Mosholu Golf Course in the Bronx, the girls partnered with mentors. Sandra Richards, Morgan Stanley head of Global Sports & Entertainment, was the featured keynote speaker. There was a career panel and discussions about financial literacy as well as a golf clinic during which the girls and First Tee coaches got to teach the mentors about golf. Also, at stake, two internships with First Team that are funded by Morgan Stanley.

First Tee alum Olivia Sexton is now a First Tee instructor. Currently a student at SUNY Buffalo, she has seen how participants have benefited from engaging with the female executives. Some of the girls also aspire to play golf competitively in college.

“Most of these mentors have gone through some of the same stuff we’re going through,” said Sexton. “They’re able to relate to us.”

During the time on the course, the girls and mentors were able to bond over a shared experience. Wong Fountain said she saw a palpable difference in communication after the golfing. “Every time we do this, it always is a great reminder about golf is such a great way to foster mentoring connections,” she said.

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