Big New Reason #3 to Give at Year-End: Individual Instruction

Randy White, PGA Professional and new Director of Instruction, with his First Tee Holland PGA Junior League Team in 2019.
It’s rare when a program’s needs align so closely with a new opportunity.  When it does happen, organizations like First Tee that operate on smaller budgets must take advantage.  One of those opportunities has arrived. Randy White, First Tee staffer, and PGA Professional will shift into a new role as First Tee’s Director of Instruction. We are excited about the impact White (Coach Randy) will make on our most vulnerable students through this new role. First Tee’s mantra is “Building Game Changers.” We are a youth development program.  The platform that we use to develop young people is the game of golf.  The new Director of Instruction position will perfectly blend First Tee’s ability to develop high character, high integrity young men and women with our students’ need for a deeper, more technical golf experience. The Need First Tee West Michigan has heard a similar question over and over again from its parents since its inception in 2011.  It goes something like this: “We love First Tee and Coach [Fill in the Blank].  My kid has loved the First Tee experience and is REALLY getting into golf.  We’re wondering if you can recommend an individual instructor in the area?” We love this question – it tells us the family and the participant are ALL in.  Almost without fail, these families become some of our most engaged participants, learning First Tee skills like goal setting, conflict resolution, and of course, our Nine Core Values.  They end up playing high school golf, and for some, they even end up playing college golf or go to college for Professional Golf Management. The issue since 2011 has been with WHO asks this question.  Most families that ask for recommendations for individual instruction have two characteristics: #1. They have financial means.  This means they can afford the $60-$100 hourly rate that is required for an individual golf lesson with a PGA Professional. #2. They often come from a family of golfers. They know the impact individual instruction can make on their child’s golf game, so they pursue it. Our most vulnerable students usually are missing one or both of these characteristics, and therefore rarely ask about individual instruction.  First Tee needs to pursue its own students with limited golf background and disposable income, and offer the opportunity for instruction.   Parents who didn’t grow up around the game often don’t know the value of individual instruction or don’t believe they can afford it. This is where our Director of Instruction Role comes in. How PGA Professionals have helped until now For nearly a decade, First Tee has recommended PGA Professionals to its participants, and they’ve been incredibly generous with our students.  Local pros we’ve recommended to our students include Raquel Bryant (Thousand Oaks), Jeff Caminiti (Maple Hill), Ian Hughes (Golf Tec), Andre Pillow (Blythefield CC), Brandon Roby (Cascade Hills), John Seltzer (Quail Ridge), and Charley Vandenberg (Thousand Oaks).  Many of these pros have offered discounted or free lessons to our families.  We will continue to recommend these and other pros to our full-price students.  Several of these pros have generously taken 1-2 First Tee students on scholarship annually into their instruction program at a discounted rate or free. But these professionals are busy, and if they give their time away, they need to be certain the student is “all in” before they begin. Oftentimes, our scholarship students have barriers like inconsistent schedules, lack of transportation, lack of opportunity to practice, etc.  First Tee wants to build a bridge to these families to ensure they have the same opportunities for individual instruction and that they know about that opportunity. How it will work Through Randy White, PGA Professional and new Director of Instruction, First Tee students in all communities (Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland, and now Kalamazoo) will be able to register for individual lessons with Coach Randy on our website.  They will work within the V1 Golf App to see uploaded swing videos and review past lessons.  During COVID-19, students will also be able to send videos for a mobile lesson.  These instruction videos will be available for students at any time to show their other First Tee coaches to ensure communication is aligned. First Tee will actively pursue and offer students on scholarship this opportunity.  Any child eligible for free or reduced-price lunch at school (an indicator of financial need) can receive First Tee’s scholarship rate of $5 for a six-class session. In 2020, First Tee also added any family experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19 to the list of those eligible for the scholarship.
Schedule of 2021 Participant Opportunities through First Tee HQ – Click to View
First Tee will offer students on scholarship hourly lessons for just $15, but will not turn away a family for their inability to pay. Group lesson rates will also be available, and non-scholarship students can also get lessons for $70. By working with Coach Randy, First Tee can offer this opportunity to students who are younger and less-seasoned in First Tee, capturing them earlier.  Informing parents and guardians about this opportunity for their child, and doing it at an earlier age can open up many opportunities, including: Each lesson offered to First Tee students on scholarship will be subsidized by First Tee’s budget.  Already, a generous donor from Grand Rapids has committed $12,500 to this program in 2021, including more than $9,500 in subsidized lessons (a projected 165 group and individual lessons).  Your gift would ensure even more students would have access to these subsidized lessons with Coach Randy.
Director of Instruction Randy White, PGA
Why Coach Randy White? White has served as First Tee’s Holland Area Director since 2017.  He’s led the growth in Holland from its start to now serving 150-180 students annually, fundraising and managing a $100,000 budget, and managing roughly 25 volunteers and 5 part-time Lead Coaches. But his heart is in instruction. In his 35-year career as a PGA Professional, White has instructed some of the finest high school golfers in West Michigan, including leading multiple area high school girls golf teams to state appearances, including Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Mona Shores.  In addition, Randy has run the MSHAA’s Girls Golf State Championships for the past several years, building relationships with hundreds of high school golf coaches. Outside of golf, prior to his work at First Tee, White served as an area director for First Priority, a faith-based school mentoring program. White is also a Level III First Tee Coach and knows First Tee’s life skills and values curriculum well. He will be able to seamlessly weave First Tee’s life skills like goal setting, conflict resolution, appreciating diversity, and of course, First Tee’s Nine Core Values into his golf instruction with First Tee participants. He has already taught PLAYer, Par, Birdie, and Eagle classes, and knows how to communicate with students at each level. This winter, with COVID-19 limiting group opportunities, Randy has opened up his personal home golf studio in Muskegon for “Open Hitting” and has already seen significant swing improvement from participants. Randy will also provide lessons during the winter in Grand Rapids in the future. In addition to improving our participants’ golf skills, we also see instruction with White leading to higher retention and progression amongst our students on scholarship, leading them to more First Tee and golf opportunities in the future. What’s Next?  As White leads this new initiative, First Tee hopes to add other PGA Professionals to the program in its communities.  Through training, these instructors can learn the curriculum of First Tee, and serve as instructors, offering the subsidized lessons to more students in more communities. Your support of this new initiative ensures that more students on scholarship get this opportunity, and have all the top-level instruction possible.  Thank you for your consideration!    

Big New Reason #2 to Give at Year-End: Deeper Relationships with our families

Since its inception in 2011, First Tee – West Michigan has focused on impacting students who otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to golf and the values it can teach because of income, communication, culture, and transportation barriers. For as long as the game of golf has been played, race and income have been huge barriers to access.  Caddie programs used to be one avenue for people of color and those with lower incomes to gain access. Caddie programs still exist today, but at a much smaller scale (only five caddie programs remain in West Michigan). So how does a student TODAY who doesn’t know any golfers and has never golfed themselves learn about the game and what it can teach? That’s where First Tee comes in. First Tee seeks to remove the barriers of entry to golf and what it can teach. One of the major barriers is communication. COVID-19 exacerbated the communication and technology barriers for many families First Tee serves. 2021 marks a new year for First Tee, and with it will come new initiatives to improve, increase, and individualize the communication with our most vulnerable students. How does First Tee find its participants?  In 2019, 48% of First Tee’s 1,241 participants received a scholarship to participate because of their family income. Students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch at school receive First Tee’s programs for $5.00 or free, depending on how they participate. In 2019, 50% of students in Kent County (more than 50,000) were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, while in Muskegon (61%, more than 16,000), and Ottawa Counties (32%, more than 14,000) the need was great as well. First Tee works to provide access to students on scholarship through two different ways: partnerships with schools and other youth-serving organizations, and through open-enrollment sessions. Students receive the same curriculum and programming, but how they get to the golf course is different. In 2020, many of First Tee’s partnerships with schools and youth-serving organizations were put on hold due to COVID-19, which in turn, dropped our scholarship rate from 48% to 32% in 2020. Our 2021 communications plan will help increase the number of students on scholarship we serve.  In order to do that, First Tee needs to:
  1. Improve retention among its existing participants on scholarship
  2. Be more strategic in recruiting new participants on scholarship.
Improved, Increased, Individuals Communication to our existing low-income students With a Marketing & Communications Coordinator joining our staff in 2021, First Tee families will receive improved, increased, and individualized communications. Here are a few new tools and initiatives First Tee will use in 2021:
  • Hubspot – our new customer resource management platform easily segments participants so they receive emails about program opportunities specific to their community. This way, families in Muskegon receive program info about Muskegon – not Grand Rapids. Likewise, as a donor or volunteer, you can choose to receive information that is applicable to you.
  • TextMagic  Over time, First Tee has relied more on texting its families rather than emailing them. The reason? Every guardian and parent use texting regardless of their income or background – not all of our families use email frequently.
      • Example of how First Tee will use TextMagic to improve communication: When a participant comes to First Tee through a partnership with an organization like the Boys & Girls Club, the only thing required from a guardian or parent before the student participates is filling out a simple application. Some parents do not know that their child is participating in First Tee. But, now through TextMagic, partnership parents and guardians will receive a weekly text sharing what their child learned that day at First Tee, and also be given a question to ask their child about their experience.  In the final weeks of the session, parents and guardians will be sent a link to register for the next session available.
  • Case Workers – To foster more mentor-mentee relationships in 2021, First Tee asked their Lead Coaches in November to sign up for a new program. Six Lead Coaches opted in, saying they wanted to identify 3-6 participants on scholarship that they’d like to build a deeper relationship with. As a ‘Case Worker,’ our coaches will reach out individually 6-8 times per year to each of their students, sharing upcoming opportunities for six-class sessions, leagues, Saturday tee times, and other program opportunities. We expect the Case Worker initiative to increase retention and progression in the program, and foster more mentor-mentee relationships. Already, more than 75% of students who have participated in more than one session say they view someone at First Tee as a mentor.
  • Improved First Tee Store Items with First Tee’s logo – At each session, students earn First Tee bucks (our in-house currency) for good attendance and exhibiting positive behaviors and our Nine Core Values. In the final week of class, students can use First Tee bucks to purchase equipment, apparel, and other goodies. With First Tee’s new brand rollout in September 2020, we will be investing in hundreds of youth-sized First Tee t-shirts and polos to increase awareness, particularly with our partnership and low-income students. T-shirts and polos will be ‘sold’ at the First Tee store to incentivize students to wear them at school, at home, and in their neighborhood.
A strategic approach to finding new participants eligible for First Tee’s scholarship rate First Tee has relied heavily on partnerships and word of mouth to recruit new participants on scholarship. With COVID-19 temporarily putting our partnerships on hold, First Tee will add new strategic approaches to recruit new students on scholarship in 2021. With a new Marketing & Communications Coordinator in charge, here are two initiatives that will begin in 2021:
  • Facebook Advertising: Next spring, First Tee will offer programs at 19 area golf courses. By identifying lower-income neighborhoods nearby to those golf courses and advertising to ages 25-45,  First Tee can offer personalized program offerings to families in their neighborhood.
  • Door to Door Mailers:  With the help of First Tee’s 16 teenage junior coaches, First Tee will distribute simple program advertisements door to door in specific neighborhoods near its golf course locations.  This will provide information to new potential participants, while also providing more hours (and earned income) to First Tee’s teenage participants.
Each and every one of these new initiatives will require strategic thought, time, energy, and creativity.  Your support at year-end helps First Tee pay for the new Marketing & Communications Coordinator, and also for the increased marketing, mailers, and strategic communication to our families. Thank you for considering First Tee’s year-end campaign, and for supporting deeper relationships with the students that need us the most.

Participant Spotlight: Jorge Garcia

Since 2016, Jorge and his younger brother Nicholas have been mainstays in First Tee, receiving its six-class sessions for just $5.00. Along the way, both Jorge and his brother have become solid golfers. Jorge was the number one golfer at Wyoming High School during his sophomore, junior, and senior years. Through donated lessons at Golf-Tec with number four teacher in the state of Michigan Ian Hughes, Jorge carded his lowest scores ever (in the low 40s on 9 holes) his junior year. As he wrapped up his senior year (golf season was canceled due to COVID-19), he was in the Eagle Level at First Tee and was a junior coach in 2019 and this summer. But since his freshman year, Jorge has been working toward something bigger than his 4.0 GPA and a good golf game – a full-ride college scholarship. He began caddying at Kent Country Club in 2016 and worked extremely hard in the summer of 2019 to get the loops he needed as a caddie for a chance at the prestigious Chick Evans Scholarship – a caddie scholarship that provides a full ride, including room and board, to the University of Michigan or Michigan State. Last winter, Jorge was the first-ever Evans Scholarship recipient from First Tee – West Michigan, and was the only caddie from the area courses selected for the award. Now, he’s in his first year at the University of Michigan with 25 other Evans Scholars, putting his self-reliance to the test with COVID-19 online classes and other typical first-year college challenges. He and Executive Director Tyler Smies connect every other week over Zoom to ensure Jorge is acclimating in Ann Arbor. He’s the first in his family to attend college. The normal challenges exist – getting to bed on time and balancing new freedoms with class demands and responsibilities in the Evans House. There is still time for fun – Jorge is excited that he made an eSports Team at Michigan and has found a passion for ping pong as well. Looking back four years ago when we first interviewed Jorge’s mother Maria, it was clear to her even then what impact First Tee was making on Jorge and Nicholas. “I noticed then that both my sons were calmer, more polite, more thoughtful, and even more strategic in their day-to-day life than they were before,” Maria said. “The values that First Tee talks about – they are truths that they can live by in all parts of life – it’s not just in the context of sports.”

MEDIA ALERT – Local golfer walking a marathon today while playing golf for First Tee students

Media Alert Contact: Tyler Smies                                                                                                                  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Direct: 616-965-6633, [email protected] Local Golfer walking a marathon and golfing 100+ holes along with 100 others to raise money for Charity What:            Today (September 11th), 14 golfers will participate in a golf marathon to raise funds on behalf of the student participants for First Tee – West Michigan. Today is a part of a multi-week fundraising event, which takes place at 10 different golf courses between August 31 and October 5 to raise money for students on scholarship at First Tee. Today, Eric Bixler will play in his 6th ever marathon, but this time, he is walking 26.2 miles with his wife Megan while playing more than 100 holes of golf at West Ottawa Golf Course near Holland, MI.  To pledge to his efforts, or give him a per-mile pledge, use this link – Bixler has been a mentor at First Tee since 2013 and has raised more than $26,000 through the marathon since starting six years ago.  Last year, he played 300 holes of golf!  This year, he’s ramped up his efforts, determined to walk all day until he has walked a marathon (26.2 miles) while playing golf – all for First Tee’s students on scholarship.  Here is a video of how he started his day! More than 10,000 holes of golf are expected to be played during all the marathon events.   12 marathoners are playing today at West Ottawa Golf Course. First Tee is a non-profit organization that impacts the lives of young people by teaching values and life skills through the game of golf.  Nearly half of the 1,242 students served in 2019 were on scholarship due to their families’ income. Monies raised from this event will go directly to student scholarships. Students who participate in The First Tee’s programs are playing in the marathon after their school day, attempting to reach their own goals for holes played. A leaderboard and pictures will continuously be updated throughout the day on our Facebook page, “First Tee of West Michigan”, on Twitter at @TFTWM, and on Instagram at firstteewestmichigan.  First Tee anticipates raising more than $225,000 through their marathoners’ effort, and marathoners will play as many holes as they are physically capable. For more information, visit When:           3:30 p.m. – 8 pm, Friday, September 11th Tyler Smies, Executive Director of The First Tee, and Eric Bixler, marathoner, will be available for interviews throughout the afternoon. Students will be participating in the marathon beginning at 3:30 pm. Where:         West Ottawa Golf Course – 5046 136th Ave, Holland MI 49424 Additional First Tee Golf Marathon Schedule:
  • August 31st | Cascade Hills & Stonewater CC | 5 marathoners
  • September 8 | Sunnybrook CC | 2 marathoners
  • September 11 | West Ottawa GC | 12 marathoners, including students
  • September 14 | Muskegon CC | 14 marathoners, including students
  • September 15 | Kent CC | 3 marathoners
  • September 18 | Maple Hill GC | 32 marathoners, including students
  • September 21 | Wuskowhan PC & Lincoln GC | 16 marathoners
  • September 25 | Eastern Hills GC | 14 marathoners
  • September 28 | Watermark CC | 4 marathoners
  • September 30 | Thousand Oaks GC | 3 marathoners
  • October 2 | Indian Trails GC & Railside GC | 6 marathoners, including students
  • October 5 | Egypt Valley CC | 1 marathoner

First Tee hires first-ever Muskegon Area Director

Link to MLive Article About Erik


  MUSKEGON, MI – June 16, 2020 – Since 2013, First Tee West Michigan has provided youth development and golf programs to young people in Muskegon, Kent and Ottawa Counties.  This spring, First Tee hired Erik Sanford as its first-ever Muskegon Area Director. Erik Sanford is a well-known name in Muskegon golf community, graduating from Whitehall High School in 1995 as a four-time all-state golfer and leading his team to four state appearances. Sanford went on to play golf at the University of Tennessee – Martin, and has won various local golf tournaments since. Sanford’s work experience includes more than fifteen years working for the Department of Health and Human Services in Child Protective Services, Catholic Charities West Michigan, and as a teacher and a behavioral specialist at an elementary school in Reed City. “We’re thrilled to have Erik as our first Director in Muskegon,” said Executive Director Tyler Smies. “His background working with youth from all walks of life, along with his passion and skill for golf make him the ideal fit for this role. We can’t wait to see the impact he’ll make on young people in Muskegon.” First Tee of West Michigan grew tremendously last year in Muskegon County, teaching life skills and its Nine Core Values through the game of golf to 200 students under the direction of Lead Coaches Terri Clock and Greg Heath.  Participation increased 40% between 2018 and 2019. More than half of students in Muskegon County receive scholarships to participate due to family income. The hiring of Sanford was made possible through a generous gift made in honor of Gordy Scripps, a Norton Shores resident and Muskegon Country Club member who passed away in 2019.  Only 10% of First Tee’s operational costs are covered by program fees. The rest is raised locally through gifts from the Muskegon community. First Tee of West Michigan works with more than 1,200 youth annually at 15 area golf courses, including Bent Pine Golf Course, Muskegon Country Club, Oak Ridge Golf Course, Stonegate Golf Club, and University Park Golf Course in Muskegon County.  Registration for summer sessions is currently open, with many sessions beginning this week.  To register a participant between the ages of 7-17, visit For more information on The First Tee of West Michigan or to interview Erik Sanford, contact 231-670-6580 or email [email protected].

COVID-19 Programming Safety and Health Guidelines

COVID-19 procedures and practices are in place!  Click the PDF below to see the steps we are taking to keep our classes safe, and how you, as participants, guardians, and mentors, play an important role. [ddownload id=”2998″ text=”2020 Program Health and Safety Guidelines”]  

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

First Tee of West Michigan remains committed to our students and all those that make First Tee the great program it is. If you are a family we serve, please let us know anyway that we can provide assistance (food, supplies, etc.). We want to help any way we are able to during this time. Below are some resources we’ve pulled together in Kent, Ottawa, and Muskegon Counties. PS. Spring registration is still open and scheduled to start on time if you’d like to register. Kent County Resources   Ottawa County Resources   Muskegon County Resources
——– OTHER RESOURCES FREE Internet Service Via Comcast “As the country deals with the effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Comcast is taking immediate steps to help connect more low-income families to the Internet at home. Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, new Internet Essentials customers will receive two free months of Internet service.” Other articles: How to talk to your kids about Coronavirus – NY TIMES

Seufert & Karhunen finish 2nd at First Tee – Champions Tour Challenge in Florida

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – March 2, 2020 – Two local teens got away from the winter cold and brought their golf clubs to compete in The Golf to Paradise – First Tee Champions Challenge in Naples, Florida.
Participants from across the country posing at the end of a great week.
Jack Seufert, a junior at East Grand Rapids High School, and Alex Karhunen, a junior at Jenison High School were sent by the local non-profit First Tee of West Michigan. Both are Eagle Level participants, with Seufert a participant at First Tee of West Michigan since 2014 and Karhunen since 2013. In conjunction with the Chubb Classic, a Champions Tour event, 12 affiliates of the First Tee from across the country are invited to participate.  The Challenge was hosted at Lely Resort in Naples, Florida on February 14-16. Seufert and Karhunen were two of just 24 students from across the country selected for this event. They competed in three different playing formats against pairs of students from other First Tee chapters and took 2nd place out of the 12 First Tee teams.  They also received instruction from Champions Tour Professionals when they arrived and volunteered at a local food bank.
Alex Karhunen and Jack Seufert with Executive Director Tyler Smies on day 1 at Quail Creek GC.
“We worked with more than 1,200 students at The First Tee of West Michigan in 2019, and Jack and Alex are two of our finest young people.  They are strong golfers, but more importantly exemplify the Nine Core Values we teach, especially the values of judgment and perseverance.  We are ecstatic about the way they represented our chapter on a national stage while also getting to meet Champions Tour players and other students from around the country,” said Executive Director Tyler Smies.  Smies accompanied the teenagers on the trip.
Alex Karhunen and Jack Seufert on day 2 at Quail Creek GC.
Seufert and Karhunen competed against eleven other teams from Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington D.C. throughout the weekend. For more information on The First Tee of West Michigan, contact 616-208-1177, email [email protected] or visit ### Jack, left, and Alex, right, with Champions Tour Legend Bernhard Langer hitting range balls in the middle.  Jack at the local food pantry volunteering Alex at the local food pantry volunteering Jack and Alex with Executive Director Tyler Smies on the Naples Sunset Cruise.

Farmers Insurance Open Experience – San Diego, CA

Eagle participant Angelo Luciani was selected out of 16 applicants for the newly created Farmers Insurance Open Experience, held January 20-25, 2020 at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California.   He was selected based on his academics, involvement in the program, and his essays.  This trip’s opportunities, and all its costs, were provided courtesy of Farmers Insurance. Watch the video below to see his week! While he was there, Angelo:
  • Played golf at The Bridges of Rancho Sante Fe
  • Played golf at Balboa Park Golf Course
  • Took a lesson from PGA Tour stars Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel
  • Walked inside the ropes alongside Rickie Fowler for the Pro-Am
  • Played a hole at Torrey Pines with Rickie, and tied him!
  • Got inside access to TV and Media trucks
  • Watched the Farmers Insurance Open as a spectator for the opening round.
Angelo, 14 years old, has been a participant at First Tee of West Michigan since he was eight years old.  He joined our junior coach staff this past fall for the first time, and will play golf for East Grand Rapids High School this spring, and has aspirations of playing golf professionally.

First Tee of West Michigan Expands to Kalamazoo County

Contact: Tyler Smies                                                                                                                          FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Executive Director Office: 616-208-1177 Cell: 616-965-6633 Email: [email protected]

First Tee of West Michigan Expanding to Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – February 10, 2019 – First Tee of West Michigan, in partnership with the Kalamazoo Junior Golf Association and the City of Kalamazoo, is planning to expand its programs to Kalamazoo County starting in spring 2021. First Tee is an international non-profit youth development program that teaches life skills, values, and healthy habits through the game of golf. The curriculum serves youth ages 7 to 17. There are seven chapters in Michigan, more than 150 chapters around the country and 10 chapters internationally. First Tee of West Michigan, established in 2011 in Grand Rapids, currently impacts young people in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. First Tee started with 73 students in 2011 and now works with more than 1,200 youth at 15 area golf courses. The organization believes it can impact more than 500 young people in Kalamazoo annually by 2023. “Kalamazoo is one of the largest population centers in the state without a First Tee chapter presence,” said Executive Director of First Tee of West Michigan Tyler Smies. “We are incredibly fortunate to partner with the Kalamazoo Junior Golf Association and the City of Kalamazoo, who have strong and sustainable junior golf programs. We can’t wait to provide First Tee curriculum to more young people in Kalamazoo who may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn through golf because of transportation or economic barriers.” PGA Professional Dean Marks, who operates the City of Kalamazoo’s three courses, and is also president of the Kalamazoo Junior Golf Association, is also excited. “The KJGA has provided affordable golf opportunities to 400+ youth annually for over 30 years.  The opportunity to partner with First Tee and their life skills and values curriculum will increase our outreach to area youth.  That is a win for the community, a win for the youth, and a win for golf and the future of Kalamazoo.  We are excited to expand the use of Red Arrow Golf Course to ensure that any family who wants their kids to learn important life skills through the game of golf will be able to do so regardless of their ability to pay.” Youth golf tournaments and clinics run by the KJGA will continue to operate in 2020, while First Tee develops relationships in Kalamazoo, recruits mentors and fundraises. First Tee’s programs are planned for all three of Kalamazoo’s municipal golf courses in 2021 – Red Arrow, Eastern Hills, and Milham Park. Smies says partnering with local school districts and youth-serving organizations is also critical to First Tee’s ability to impact students who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn through golf. First Tee hopes to begin outreach with area schools and organizations in the upcoming year in preparation for the 2021 program launch. First Tee relies heavily on volunteers and donors from communities in order to provide discounted programs to youth. Interested golfers, parents, volunteers, and donors can learn more about the organization and expansion plans at the West Michigan Golf Show, February 14-16 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Mich. In addition, First Tee is hosting a Meet & Greet event for all Kalamazoo County residents on March 11, 2020 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Parks & Recreation Building at Homer Stryker Field, 251 Mills Ave.  Interested individuals are encouraged to RSVP by clicking here.  For more information on First Tee of West Michigan or to RSVP for the March 11 event, contact 616-208-1177 or visit ###

Participant Spotlight – Jorge Garcia

UPDATE April 13, 2020: Fox 17’s Jason Hutton interviewed Jorge about being awarded the Evans Scholarship, and its impact on him and his family. Watch the video below, or click this link to read the article. 
  Eagle participant Jorge Garcia just became the first First Tee West Michigan student to receive the Evans Scholarship! He will be attending the University of Michigan School of Engineering next year, thanks to this full ride, room and board scholarship. After being selected as one of just 25 finalists across the state, Jorge, his mother, and Executive Director Tyler Smies traveled across the state to Plum Hollow Country Club for his in-person interview on January 9, 2020.  More than 50 Evans Committee members were in attendance. Check out the video of his big day.