Against all odds: Esther Etherington’s journey to collegiate golf  

Esther Etherington is a First Tee Scholar, a collegiate golfer at Franklin College and an inspiration for athletes everywhere.  

She was born prematurely at 26 weeks, weighing less than 2 pounds and blind in her right eye. Esther spent the first two months of her life in the NICU, where she survived heart surgery at just three weeks old.  

She spent much of her early years in that hospital, and a tumor was found in her bronchial tube when she was 5 years old. As a result, a third of her right lung was removed and Esther would spend the next five years of her life returning to the hospital for check-ups. 

Despite all odds, Esther joined First Tee – Indiana when she was 12 years old and not only fell in love with golf but thrived in it.  

She overcame obstacles many golfers never have to think about, like needing a range finder for every shot due to limited depth perception, but quickly rose through the ranks and held the No. 1 spot on the Richmond Bowie High School team for three years. Her determination brought her to state twice, in addition to four sectional team championship wins and three all-conference selections. She set her mind to her goals, and nothing could stop her from achieving them.  

Esther’s success both on and off the golf course is undeniable.  

In 2021 she was recognized by the Indiana High School Golf Coaches Association and awarded the Mitchel J. Winger Courage Award. This award recognizes an individual each year who has contributed to the success of their high school golf program and overcame a physical impairment or medical condition. Esther was the first recipient in her high school’s history. Although the award recognizes her accomplishments in golf, all anyone could talk about was how incredible she was as a teammate and person.  

After making waves in her high school golf community Esther still wasn’t finished.  

She recently finished her first year of collegiate golf at Franklin College where she was awarded WGCA (Women’s Golf Coaches Association) All-American Scholar Honors. At a tournament in April, she scored a new career-low round and topped the Franklin College leaderboard.  

For Esther, the sky is the limit.  

Esther was chosen as a member of the 2022 First Tee Scholar class where she is awarded up to $5,000 per year towards tuition and paired with a mentor to help guide her through college. Esther is using this to pursue an undergraduate degree in elementary education with the eventual goal of receiving a graduate degree in special education.   

Esther has been overcoming challenges since she was born and has done so with grace and resilience.  

As a mentor in her community and First Tee Scholar, she continues to inspire all those who encounter her. First Tee is proud to recognize all that Esther has accomplished thus far and celebrate everything she will accomplish in her future.