The RSM Classic marks Jim Ruger’s 10th anniversary as a First Tee coach

Brunswick is a beautiful place on Georgia’s historic coastal plain, but it’s not a big city. In a small community like Brunswick, it’s pretty easy to stay informed, said Jim Ruger, a coach at First Tee – Golden Isles. 

“About a month ago in the local newspaper, I saw a photo of a high school girl. I knew her from participating in our chapter through the Boys & Girls Club”, he said. “She had no golf experience, but made a sincere effort at golf and to learn the First Tee’s core values. The caption to the photo stated she earned a partial scholarship and plans to attend Mercer University and become an OBGYN.”

It’s stories like that – “and she’s not the only one that comes to mind,” Ruger said – along with the dedicated staff at First Tee – Golden Isles that have kept him engaged with the organization for a decade.

Ruger’s dad got him into golf when he was just a kid, and his passion for the sport grew when he moved from Cincinnati in 1998 to work as a legal instructor at Glynco, a federal law enforcement training facility in southeast Georgia, an area also known for its spectacular golf courses. First Tee – Golden Isles presents after school and weekend programs at many of these golf courses.

In fact, the eyes of the golf world will be on nearby Sea Island this week for The RSM Classic, a PGA TOUR event. During this week’s tournament, First Tee – Golden Isles will be operating the Youth Zone, featuring putting, inflatables and an autograph area.

Back in 2013, when First Tee – Golden Isles was just launching, the tournament played an important role in bringing Ruger into First Tee’s fold.  The RSM’s organizer, the Davis Love Foundation, reached out to tournament volunteers to see if they might be interested in getting involved with a new First Tee chapter.

Ruger had just retired and wanted to volunteer with kids. He’s since gone on to attend Level 1 coach training and more recently Level 2 coach training in Augusta. “It was really great to spend three days with coaches from other chapters to learn and share ideas,” he said.

For Ruger, the best moments as a coach often come when he’s working with a participant on a particular aspect of their game, and he starts to see them demonstrating the values they’ve learned at First Tee. And he enjoys the enthusiasm they bring to any type of competition, he said.

“Each summer, our chapter presents programs at several Boys & Girls Clubs around the county where we’ll set up nets, targets and putting greens in the gym and give them golf instruction,” he said. “At the end of the summer, each club sends four kids to a local golf club for Drive, Chip and Putt competition. They really seem to enjoy that,” he said.

“Our more experienced golfers play on a team we sponsor in the PGA Jr. League. In addition, our chapter partners with local school districts in middle school golf leagues. This gives our kids the opportunity to advance from beginner to more experienced golfers. Most rewarding, several of our participants who are now in high school volunteer coaching our youngest golfers.”

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