Introducing Our New Holland Director

Introducing the new Holland Area Director Jeff Keyser. Jeff has been in the job since April and has already made a big impact this summer! Jeff brings with him a lot of experience in managing large projects while also showing his love for giving back to the community. It’s time we get to know Jeff a little more!

Where did you grow up, go to school, sports that you played, 

From a small town in Northern Michigan. East Jordan is the town, it’s up by the Traverse City Petoskey area. There’s a big iron factory in the town East Jordan Iron Works. All the manhole covers and fire hydrants are made in my hometown so it’s a fun fact I tell people. So a small town up north. Pretty blue-collar town with the ironworks being there and that really kind of formed and shaped me and my outlook on life. My parents were both school teachers so I saw firsthand the impact that they were able to have on their students and their kids. The value of them being a solid role model for their students. I played soccer, basketball, and baseball throughout my school career. That really helped me stay focused and on track. I played golf on the side, didn’t play for the school but it was always a hobby of mine and something I did with my dad and grandma and grandpa. Golf was part of my life from the very beginning. I approached it with a fun attitude and it was just more about getting outside and playing and not super competitive.

Talk about your family and just talk about yourself. Favorite hobbies, favorite food, favorite movies. That sort of thing. 

  Family is everything to me. As of now my wife and I have 2 sons. Jacob and Ben. Ben was born this past June. My philosophy is what matters most is in between these four walls and my family. My wife Megan works in the hospital here in Holland. So she is heavily involved in the Holland community and sees a lot of the community through her daily work. My mom and dad have already become involved in First Tee as lead coaches in the Holland area. I already have spots reserved for my two sons when they get old enough to be participants. Really it’s about family and building relationships with the family and investing in the community. I think I sound like a broken record but we all have that service mindset and willingness to give back our time and energy. So that’s the family breakdown. When I’m not working, I really enjoy cooking. My wife was in grad school for two and a half years and it forced me to become the chef or the cook of our house. Ever since then it’s something I really fell in love with and found a passion for cooking and grilling, smoking. Anything food-related and just even eating. Life is too short to eat crappy food and not enjoy the food you are eating. I also enjoy bike riding, being outside, and golfing of course. Going up north up to the cottage. Favorite food is pepperoni pizza. My favorite movie is Toy Story. I’m a big Pixar Toy Story fan.

Give us some background on your work experience and how you got to where you are today.

Starting out of Hope I got a job at Herman Miller in their product management department. Product management means you own the product line, you’re responsible for the profit and loss, the sales strategy. So really it’s kind of like your baby, those product lines. I worked in product management for my entire time there.

What stood out about First Tee – West Michigan that drove you here?

I think for me it was as simple as kids and golf. And specifically in that order. We talked about the people we worked with and how much they love golf. For me what drew me here was the impact that I would be able to have on the kids in our community and the Holland community more specifically. I love the fact that we have a ton of kids in our programs. But really my heart and strategy and goals are centered around the at-risk kids. Going back to the way I was brought up with my parents being teachers, most of the kids I grew up with would be considered at risk. And I saw just the value that my parents provided and I want to do that for the Holland community. Hearing about this job and knowing what First Tee did and I can directly impact and mentor, and build relationships with at-risk kids through golf. It was a perfect alignment for me and just thinking about how I used to golf in the past. Building relationships and building quality time with family members and friends. It’s a natural way to reach out to mentors and kids. It was like gosh, what a great way to reach out to our community. And I think at a high-level view, the Holland community has so much opportunity to reach out to those kids that we haven’t tapped into yet. 

What is your favorite thing about being at First Tee – West Michigan so far?

My favorite thing has been introducing the game of golf to kids who have never played the game before. Seeing their faces as they pull up to the course, jump out of the car, and run over to the putting green to warm up before class starts. There’s like a joy and excitement and also kind of like a nervousness that’s something that’s brand new to them. But you get them on the putting green with 14 other kids and they’re right at home. They’re playing games, they’re putting, they’re interacting with each other. The beauty of golf is there are no distractions. It’s you, the course, and nature. No phone, TVs, video games. Nothing distracting you from the relationships and conversations. The ability to have that impact on those kids and see them interacting with each other with the coaches and the mentors. That’s been my favorite thing. And knowing what golf can do for them. Where First Tee can take them, the opportunities we can provide them through our organization. 

What is your favorite of the 9 core values and why?

All of the core values haha. I think though my favorite is probably to me is respect. I think respect has such a broad or widespread application, respect on the golf course, respect for the space, the green, the equipment. You respect everything when you’re on the course but then it carries over to home and into school. How do you respect and treat others. The idea of instilling respect into these kids at an early age I think can avoid or remove some biases and some long-term effects. If you don’t respect others it will build up over time. Teaching them and talking about respect for their neighbor and the kids next to them in class. It just sets them up for so much more success and positive relationships moving forwards. And I also think about respecting yourself. Respect who you are, what you bring to the table. Respect for your body and mind. It’s okay to be you and be different. Respect is such a widespread core value and It’s such a natural part of the golf conversation. It’s an easy conversation to have.

What makes you excited for the future with First Tee?

Just the opportunity for growth. First Tee has built a great foundation in Holland. I’m excited to jump in and leverage the work that they have done, but also put my own spin on the Holland Community. I think there’s an opportunity to grow in underserved neighborhoods. I think there’s an opportunity to diversify the game. I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to do so many things within the organization and help First Tee – West Michigan grow.