They say practice makes perfect.

Ask any of the golfers competing in the Regions Tradition, and they’ll likely count practicing their craft as the primary way to make it to a major.

From the perspective of financial literacy coach Eric Smith, practicing proper money management is just as important for young people, no matter what career they have in mind. That’s why over the past decade, Smith, a former banker, has traveled the country speaking to more than 100,000 students about becoming a financial winner in life.

“Financial literacy hasn’t been seen as the coolest thing to talk about, but Regions Bank has been very intentional about creating fun experiences to bring the information to the students,” Smith said.

Smith and Regions, the official bank of the Southeastern Conference, have collaborated since 2015 to bring his common-sense financial education to students. The partnership began with interactive coaching for student-athletes. After all, Smith coaches professional athletes all the time on how to manage the money they make when they go pro. So why not expand his training to reach college players considering a career in the big leagues?

Given their success, the coaching sessions were soon expanded to reach as many students who want to participate, regardless of whether they play sports.

On a sunny afternoon during the 2019 Regions Tradition, dozens of students took a little time away from watching golf and learned financial lessons that can last a lifetime.

Financial literacy coach Eric Smith.

Among them: Have a financial game plan with short- and long-term goals. Make saving money a priority. Use credit and debt responsibly. Don’t chase money, but instead, chase passion. Educate yourself.

“These are just some common-sense things I wish somebody had told me when I was that age,” Smith explained. “I wanted to create some awareness because good habits are just as hard to break as bad habits, and before we can create good habits, we must have good information.”

The information really resonated with recent University of Alabama at Birmingham graduate Maria Donado, who says she had many takeaways from Smith’s discussion.

“Planning financially is the biggest one.” Donado shared. “I’m in the step of making a new movement in my life, new decisions, and this was a really important moment for me to start managing my money as a graduate student.”

An alumnus of the women’s golf team at UAB, Donado has her eyes not only on the action taking place on the course at the Tradition, but also, on her future.

“I want to stay living in Birmingham and then, after that, participate in the PGA Tour Qualifying School next year; this year is preparation for ‘Q-school,’’’ Donado added. “I need to make sure to invest money and a good amount where I need it to be ready golf-wise and financial-wise so when I take the step to become a professional, it’s all the correct choices.”

Young people hearing these tips and learning how to apply them is why it remains a priority for Regions to bring opportunities like this to where the audiences are…and in this case, the golf course was the classroom.

“Given the size of the audiences we attract here, we’re going to capture people who won’t show up at other places, so I think it’s really important to drive the message of how important financial education is,” said Leroy Abrahams, head of Community Affairs for Regions. “Investing in the community is a priority, and with how high-profile this event is, I think this is the perfect place to talk about something as important as financial education.”

Smith said tailoring a message to the venue means a lot in how it is received.

“They had a positive time here,” Smith said. “The fact that I, along with Regions Bank, was able to introduce some of this foundational information and invest in the lives of future golfers and future clients of Regions Bank, but more importantly, people dealing with money the rest of their lives, it’s really cool to be a part of that.”