Crosby Scholars 2018 Breakfast of Champion
by Kathy Norcross Watts
It’s important to know that each of us has someone in our lives who has helped us get to where we are today.
That was the message shared by Wake Forest golf coach Jerry Haas and Crosby Scholars alumnus Taeshawn Spence during the 2018 Breakfast of Champions held at Bermuda Run Country Club before the Crosby Scholars Invitational on May 22.
The CROSBY National Celebrity Golf Tournament, the longest running charity golf tournament in the nation, moved to Bermuda Run in 1986, thanks to Kathryn Crosby, Bing Crosby’s widow. Money raised from the event formed the foundation of Crosby Scholars, and the Crosby Scholars Invitational continues to be the primary fundraiser for the college access program.
“It’s amazing to me that each of you young people is going somewhere so big and so fine, and you started here,” Crosby said.
Spence graduated in 2018 from N.C. A&T State University with a degree in architectural engineering with honors and cum laude status. He’s moving to Kansas City, where he already has an engineering job.
“Crosby Scholars has played a big role in that,” Spence said. “Can I give Ms. Kathryn a hug please on behalf of everyone? I just want to say thank you. You’re making a change in people lives.”
Spence was a student at Mt. Tabor High school when he met Mona Lovett, Crosby Scholars President and CEO.
“He came in with his dad and said, ‘We need to apply for this Last Dollar Grant, and we’re not quite sure how,’” Lovett said. “I’m delighted I was the person to greet him. We stayed in touch over the years.”
Spence said he joined Crosby Scholars in 9th grade because his father made him—and he’s grateful for his father’s advice.
“As I matured over the years, I found out it plays a big role,” he said. He remembers the academies about SAT and ACT test prep and surviving college.
“These tools were successful in helping me be a better student in college. By Crosby Scholars requiring me to do these things, for example community service, even now today I hold that in high regards. Whether it’s baking brownies for Samaritan Church Ministries and volunteering at the YMCA, it’s the most rewarding thing ever. Financially, the Last Dollar Grant has been a big help to me, especially in college. They helped me reduce the loans I’d have to pay back as well. I think the most important thing here are the people. They make you feel welcome. Crosby Scholars, it makes you want to have questions to ask. It’s a great thing when the President & CEO, you can come talk to her about anything. I always felt welcome.”
Haas, who was an All-American golfer at Wake Forest on the Arnold Palmer scholarship, said his uncle Bob Goalby helped him in his golf career. Among his many honors, Haas competed in the Master’s in 1985, the PGA, European and Nike tours – and three U.S. Opens.
Haas said Goalby, who won 11 times on the PGA tour and won The Master’s in 1968, was not a good player growing up and went to school on a football scholarship, “but he loved golf.” Goalby honed his skill by practicing his swings for hours. He made himself a better player and turned pro at 28 years old. Haas said that “if it wasn’t for Bob Goalby taking that chance and going out on a limb,” Haas would not have had the opportunities he’s had.
“There’s somebody in your life that helped you,” Haas said. “I thank my uncle for helping me.”
In 1997, Haas was named head golf coach at Wake Forest University, and the team has won 27 tournaments, has gone to the NCAAs 21 times, and he has coached 18 All Americans, according to retired news anchor, writer and golfer Cameron Kent.
“It is not his long list of accomplishments on the golf course that makes Jerry so remarkable,” Kent said. “It’s how he treats people off the golf course: always with kindness, always with respect. He cares about his students. He cares about all the young people in this room.”
That’s a lesson Haas said his father taught him.
“My dad always said it costs nothing to be nice to someone,” he said. “I do pass that on to the team. You’ve got to recruit character instead of characters.”
Haas said that pro golfer Webb Simpson, who attended WFU on the Arnold Palmer scholarship, did not win at WFU until he was a junior, then twice as a senior. Simpson’s example is worth noting.
“Webb Simpson was my most honest and realistic player I had,” Haas said. “He would say, ‘Coach, I hit that terrible.’ He was very honest in his evaluation of himself and his game. I think that’s why he got better and better.”
Simpson won the 2012 U.S. Open and the 2018 Players Championship, and he has numerous other honors.
Crosby Board Chair Anc Newman said that the 2018 Crosby Invitational golf tournament raised approximately $300,000 that supports Last Dollar Grants and Crosby Scholars programming for 11,600 students.
“Education is one of the keys to success and happiness,” Newman said. In 2017-2018, Crosby Scholars awarded $773,000 in Last Dollar Grants. Seniors who complete the program have a 100 percent graduation rate, and 98 percent continue to a 2- or 4-year college.
This year, 1,074 Crosby Scholars seniors graduated, and Spence shared advice with them as they begin their college journey.
“I want to tell you guys: Congratulations, you made it!” Spence said. He encouraged seniors to work hard as they enjoy their freshman year because GPA matters.
“Start strong and end stronger,” he said.