“Going Deeper” at Year-End 2023

Each story below shares about a specific student whose life was positively impacted by First Tee West Michigan’s ‘extra’ opportunities. Your gift at year-end helps us “Go Deeper” with kids and teens in 2024 and secures a $30,000 matching gift from Charles Schwab.

Jayden | 14 years old | East Rockford Middle School

“Going Deeper” Initiative: Caddying & the Evans Scholarship

While more than 2,000 students participated in First Tee West Michigan’s core programs this year, Jayden has fully immersed himself in many ‘deeper’ programs including caddying, volunteer mentoring, and our golf marathon fundraiser.

Jayden started at First Tee at the age of 9, participating at Kaufman and Indian Trails his first two years. At age 10, Jayden began a relationship that has blossomed into a true friendship with Coach and staff member Chris Hashley.

Hashley, a self-admitted golf junkie, started coaching Jayden at First Tee’s 9-hole junior league at Indian Trails – a place for aspiring competitive golfers to have their first experience competing against other students their age and ability. That relationship blossomed over time, but came to full bloom at the start of this summer at the age of 13, when Jayden began caddying for Hashley and several other members at Blythefield Country Club.

Hashley, who last year took another First Tee caddie for his league night, was excited to get Jayden on his bag for as many caddie rounds as possible this summer. Through that relationship, Jayden impressed enough other members at Blythefield CC so much that he was able to secure more than 35 loops as a caddie, earning thousands of dollars while building impactful relationships with dozens of members at the club. Hashley has become a mentor for Jayden, attending middle school basketball games and tennis matches when not working with Jayden on the golf course.

Jayden’s other highlights as a caddie this year included caddying Tom Coomes to a victory of the Men’s Senior Championship (picture below) and caddying for a round with golf social-media star Patrick Koenig, who broke the world record for the number of 18-hole golf courses played in a calendar year.

Jayden with Senior Men's Champion Tom Coomes.

Jayden’s mom, Becca, has become First Tee’s biggest champion. “Thanks for creating a program that allows kids to really grow and develop as amazing human beings. Jayden is more excited about golf now than ever – he was just out walking 18 holes all by himself last week! He’s having so much fun – he’s planning to play this winter at First Tee – AND is bringing 2 friends with him!”

Giving Back

In addition to caddying, Jayden participated in First Tee’s six-class sessions and also began volunteering through First Tee’s junior mentor program. He volunteered as a mentor this spring with an age 7-9 class in Grand Rapids and had a blast. “The most fun thing for me was that I could see how much fun the kids were having. When I told the kids class was ending, one kid said ‘aaaaahhhh, I don’t want to leave!’

Jayden also participated in First Tee’s Golf Marathon Fundraiser this spring, raising $320 for our students on scholarship.

Caddying & the Evans Scholarship

More than a dozen First Tee – West Michigan students caddie at nearby golf courses, including Blythefield CC, Kent CC, Wuskowhan GC and also at Sankaty Head Golf Club in Nantucket Island. First Tee also started its own caddie program at the municipal golf course Indian Trails GC with 6 students. One of the main objectives: give more First Tee students a chance at a full-ride, room and board college scholarship through the Evans Foundation. Currently, four First Tee – West Michigan graduates have received the life-changing Evans scholarship, and are currently attending the University of Michigan or Michigan State free of charge. Four years from now, Jayden might be First Tee’s next student to receive the scholarship.

At year-end, First Tee – West Michigan needs your help to provide more deep-impact opportunities to students like Jayden.

  • 909 students received free programs this year at First Tee (up 101 kids from last year).
  • More donors than ever supported First Tee – but their average gift was smaller this year.
  • We need your help to help raise $158,000 between now and year-end.
  • An additional $30,000 matching gift is available, from Charles Schwab, if you help us reach our year-end goal. Can you support students like Jayden through a gift to First Tee? Thank you for your consideration!

Stay tuned for stories on the various additional program opportunities First Tee provides that shape our students’ and alumnis’ trajectories for decades to come.

Andrew DeYoung | “Going Deeper” Program: National Trips
Lindsay Reens | “Going Deeper” Program: Junior Coaching

James Fowler | “Going Deeper” Program: Play 9

Nathan Diepstra | “Going Deeper” Program: Job Training
Vincent Preciado | “Going Deeper” Program: Homework & Hitting