Mentor Spotlight: Sam Weiss

Sam Weiss mentoring Foundation students

Sam Weiss working with Michael Alameda, left, and Kyle Barthelmy at a recent after school session.

Sam Weiss, a former college golfer at Occidental and current vice president at BlackRock, works as a golf mentor with the young men in our after school program.

He has spent time with them at The Bridge Golf Learning Center and Dunwoodie in Yonkers and has recruited other accomplished players in the New York area to work with our students. He recently fielded some questions from Executive Director and Co-Founder Farrell Evans.

FE: Tell me how you came to The Bridge Golf Foundation, how you learned about us, why you’re here.

SW: I saw the New York Times article about the Foundation, and being a former college golfer and seeing what an incredible impact golf has had on my life, it really resonated with me. The Foundation’s mission was something I could get behind. It was a great opportunity to make an impact on some kids’ lives. It’s been rewarding, and I can’t say enough positive things about the program.

FE: Tell me what you do in your capacity as a golf mentor for the Foundation.

SW: I attend high school and middle school practices, and occasionally matches, and sometimes come to the Center after work. It’s really just spending time with them, teaching them little tricks, talking to them about what they like to do, what they want to do with their lives, their future, what they like in school.

FE: Have you been working with one student in particular, or with everybody?

SW: Everybody. I just moved back from San Francisco last summer, so I’ve really only had a couple of months, but I’m looking forward to the coming years when I can really develop a deeper relationship with some of the kids.

FE: Tell us how you reached out to your friends from similar backgrounds who played college golf. Now the Foundation has several serious players who are coming in and mentoring.

SW: Since I played golf in the metropolitan area growing up, I have a number of friends who played high school golf and college golf (including Brian Hwang) and are now living and working in the city. It was pretty easy to get that group together and tell them about the Foundation. It’s something they really believe in as well. In the winter we did a little kick-off event, where we got everyone together, Farrell made some remarks, Jeffrey Cowitt and Brian talked a little bit about ways to get involved, and it was something that got everyone pretty pumped up. And seeing this incredible facility was an extra incentive.

FE: How proud are you of the high school team for making the playoffs in only their second year?

SW: It’s pretty incredible. The boys have shown rapid growth in their skill levels and are clearly passionate about getting better each day. As any recreational golfer knows, this game isn’t something you can pick up by hitting balls once a week and spending an hour at the range or whatever. It takes a lot of commitment and perseverance, and these kids are really demonstrating that week-in and week-out.

FE: What has surprised you most since you’ve been working in the program?

SW: I think it’s the impact the Foundation has had outside of golf. You can tell that it clearly gets the kids thinking about different things — what they want to do. For example, I attended the Water Fair.

I was talking to one of the boys, and I asked him what he wanted to do in the future. He said he wanted to be a marine biologist. Then, as he talked about his project, climate change, etc., I was immediately extremely impressed. Plus, I learned a couple of things! I think it’s not only the fact that the Foundation is bringing golf to these kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it, but it’s also having a significant impact in giving them more direction and more guidance in terms of what they want to do with their lives.

FE: Tell me about your work.

SW: I’m a vice president at BlackRock, which is the world’s largest asset manager. I do institutional sales there. So working with pension funds, both corporate and public pension plans, helping them invest their assets so they can meet their retirees’ payments.

One thing I recognize working in the financial industry is the need for a more diverse group of perspectives. We need kids from different backgrounds to understand how interesting the field can be. Without having mentors / role models who work in the industry, it’s tough for them to see that.

FE: What’s the biggest lesson you learned from the game of golf?

SW: I think it’s perseverance. You never can perfect the game, no matter how good you are. You see it with all the best players in the world. It teaches you the importance of being committed to something and working hard to do your best. You’re not going to be hitting it straight down the fairway and right to 10 feet and making birdie every time. Sometimes it’s about keeping your head up and working through the days when you hit it in the rough, when you hit it in the bunker, when you have to get up and down to save bogey. That’s really what the game of golf can teach you.

FE: What’s your handicap?

SW: I’m a +2.

FE: Has golf helped you at work?

SW: Golf has opened up a lot of doors for me. It’s really an easy way to create relationships and often that’s what leads to business opportunities. I hope the same will happen for the boys in the program. I’m looking forward to being a resource for them.

FE: What was the last book you read? 

SW: “Thank You for Being Late,” by Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist. It’s about this age of accelerations – technology, climate, demographics, and globalization. There are some challenging dynamics, especially with today’s leadership, but at the end of the book, Friedman talks about the importance of community and trust, and that’s what the Bridge Foundation is really developing here. We’re creating a sense of community here in Harlem, with the Eagle Academies in Queens, Newark and elsewhere. I think that’s often overlooked – the importance of creating these types of networks, forums and places where people can learn from each other, where people can create genuine, trustworthy relationships…all that will eventually lead to better life outcomes.