Role Model Carrie Kimbell Helps Kids Tee Up for Success in Life
By Bonny Osterhage
On her fifth birthday, Carrie Kimbell was given her first golf club, a wooden driver. From the first swing, that driver became a driving force in Kimbell’s life, determining her future and her career in ways she could have never imagined. Ultimately, it led to her position as CEO of First Tee-Greater San Antonio, a role she assumed in the middle of a global pandemic. While some would’ve shied away from such a daunting challenge, for Kimbell, it was just par for the course.
“My dad once told me, ‘you can play golf for the rest of your life,'” she recalls. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but that advice charted my course with the opportunities that have been presented to me through the game, from the people I’ve met to the places I’ve traveled and the relationships I’ve made. All of it has brought me to where I am today.”
A Passion for Putting
With a life motto of “nothing is given, everything is earned,” Kimbell has always gone above and beyond, creating her own opportunities when necessary. As a freshman in high school, she was the only girl accepted onto the boys’ golf team, where she was held to the same standards as her male teammates.
“I had never even played eighteen holes when the coach took me, but he didn’t know that,” she admits.
It was a gamble that paid off for the team, with the hard-working Kimbell shooting in the high 70s and low 80s, making her walk-on status at Purdue University her freshman year a “gimmie,” but not something that she took for granted.
“I always go above and beyond the scope of what I’ve been told to do,” she says. “Even back in my high school golf days, I never expected to get something because of my gender or because of who I knew. I have always worked hard to prove myself and earn everything I have.”
When she wasn’t on the green, Kimbell applied the same drive and discipline to her studies at Purdue, earning a degree in management with a minor in marketing. The next 15 years were spent putting those skills to work at prestigious golf clubs in Arizona and Chicago, where she enjoyed careers in sales, marketing, and shop management. Along the way, she met her now ex-husband, a pro golfer, and returned with him to his hometown of San Antonio. After a brief stint in the world of high-tech, the mom of two learned that First Tee-Greater San Antonio was looking for a CEO, and she knew she had to take a swing at it.
“I immediately knew this is where I was meant to be,” she says happily. “It combines my experience in both golf and marketing and allows me to connect with the community and share my love of a game that has given me so much.”
Focus on The Long Game
First Tee-Greater San Antonio is a non-profit designed to give children ages 5-18 the best shot at life by instilling valuable lessons through the game of golf. Now in its 22nd year, it serves more than 1,600 children annually and continues to grow. Kimbell, who oversees all the site and operations management, is currently focused on the organization’s marketing and fundraising efforts and generating more exposure and awareness of First Tee’s mission which extends far beyond the green.
“We are building character in these kids,” says Kimbell. “Golf is just the vehicle we use to do it.”
Through nine core values seamlessly woven into every lesson, participants gain confidence and skills that will allow them to become successful and productive members of their communities.
“The core values are important because they translate both on and off the course,” says Kimbell, pointing to traits like honesty, integrity, and mental fortitude.
Determined to spread these values to as many children as possible, Kimbell is partnering with schools and community organizations, expanding to the Southeast and West sides of the city to introduce the game and all it offers to children who may not have access to it otherwise.
It’s a lot of work, but Kimbell describes it as her “dream job” because it allows her to do what she loves while positively impacting the youth of our community. For this role model, making a difference is what it’s all about.