AnnaLeis Caldwell is a former collegiate golfer and current program director at First Tee – Clearwater. Her First Tee journey started with an ad her father saw 16 years ago while her family was living in Salinas, California.
“He thought it would be a great way for me to learn the basics of golf, and he appreciated that it was both personal development and skills based, so I joined [First Tee] Monterey County as a participant,” she said.
Caldwell’s dad was in the military, and she stuck with First Tee when the family later moved to Virginia. For Caldwell – an avid athlete and serious softball player – First Tee went far beyond sports.
“Now I’m a First Tee trainer and I always talk about the importance of being a mentor because of my own experience,” she says. “I couldn’t tell you the names of my softball coaches today, but I remember all my First Tee coaches because we talked about my school life and my home life – not just my stats.”
Caldwell said golf has opened doors for her on and off the course, offering unique opportunities and giving her confidence. On National Girls and Women in Sports Day we’re celebrating the positive benefits that sports can provide. “Sports changes lives,” Caldwell said.
Having female coaches at First Tee when she was younger helped Caldwell build confidence, she said. “Seeing these professional women who enjoyed the game and were high up in their careers – and looking back, they were moms, which I identify with now – it gave me the confidence that I could achieve those things,” she said.
Caldwell had never touched a golf club before her initial First Tee lesson. “Little did I know 16 years ago, I’d be coaching for First Tee, welcoming girls and getting kids excited about golf,” she said.
Her journey came full circle in 2021 when she attended the Game Changers Academy as a coach. She previously attended the event as a participant and then as an alumni chaperone back when it was called the Life Skills Academy. And as a new national trainer she’s now working alongside one of her own First Tee coaches, Colleen Henry of First Tee – Silicon Valley.
“It’s amazing to be able to impact so many girls,” Caldwell said. Her chapter serves about 40 percent female participants.
Caldwell previously worked for First Tee – Upstate South Carolina, and she was the first director of women’s golf at Champion Hills Golf Course in North Carolina. Caldwell played golf at North Greenville University.