Three Reasons to Give to First Tee this Season!

Reason #1: From First Tee 3rd Grader to College Freshman – Darcey Dorris

This season, your donation to First Tee goes further, thanks to a generous matching grant from Charles Schwab. Please give before year-end to ensure First Tee – West Michigan can fully take advantage of this $32,500 match! Help us raise $60,000 this December!

Darcey first began participating in First Tee in third grade. Her journey demonstrates how First Tee’s various programs and initiatives can collectively make an impact off the golf course.

Darcey first stepped off the bus at Stormy Creek GC in southeast Grand Rapids through a partnership with Bowen Elementary (a Kentwood Public School). Working with First Tee’s Program Director, she participated in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade at the introductory level of First Tee, being introduced to First Tee’s Nine Core Values and golf fundamentals like Target Awareness and Distance Control (see an article about Darcey’s experience back in 2014). When she began attending Crestwood Middle (also a Kentwood Public School) in 6th grade, First Tee added a partnership with that school as well.

As she entered high school, First Tee formed a partnership with a new local church, First African Methodist Episcopal Church. We were thrilled when we saw Darcey came through this newly formed partnership with her church.

3 different community partnerships helped Darcey learn and grow at First Tee, keeping her involved until she became a junior coach!

Golf was not the motivator for Darcey – she enjoyed First Tee because she was outdoors and spending time with her friends. In fact, she thrived in other athletics – as a discus and shot put thrower. But her maturity and positivity helped land her a paid junior coach role at First Tee at the tender age of 15. Once in the role, Darcey’s confidence and maturity exploded.

Darcey relished the opportunity to be a leader and junior coach, coaching younger participants and leading them through games and activities. She often created her own warm-ups and activities – they were so good, our full-time staff started stealing the ideas! By 11th grade, Darcey was leading classes of 15+ students and 3 adult volunteers. As she blossomed as a coach, Darcey’s interest in her own golf game was piqued. For the first time, as a senior in high school, Darcey tried out for her high school golf team.

Darcey, this summer, with her class at Indian Trails GC

Darcey played JV golf her senior year and had several conversations that year about her career and college aspirations with Tyler Smies, Executive Director. She was interested in pursuing a career in politics or as an attorney. Finally, she chose Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, a HBCU school, where she received a scholarship to be a discus and shot put thrower.

Between her athletic and academic scholarships, Darcey’s tuition and room and board at Central State University were fully paid for!

Before heading to school this fall, Darcey worked at First Tee full-time through the end of July, leading class and working on administrative tasks in the office. She then headed to Central State University to join their track and field team, and is currently majoring in Psychology.

Darcey, leading a session in 2021 at Indian Trails

What Darcey DIDN’T receive at First Tee

While Darcey’s experience demonstrated the value of partnerships and relationships, it also highlights an area of growth for First Tee – West Michigan. First Tee wants to offer a way to engage kids at a higher level through the game of golf. Darcey was never eligible for national week-long opportunities First Tee offers due to her inexperience in golf (and lack of a handicap). Her First Tee classmates These trips have been life-changing for dozens of First Tee participants. Unfortunately, students like Darcey did not have enough opportunity to work on her golf game while at First Tee.

In the past year, First Tee has implemented two major golf-focused initiatives geared toward scholarship students like Darcey – individual instruction, and the “Play 9” initiative. Both initiatives help future Darceys work on their golf game. Both have been very successful, including in 2022 more than 40+ discounted lessons with PGA Professionals and 150+ rounds to students on scholarship at First Tee. With these opportunities, we expect more students on scholarship to get great opportunities to travel across the country through First Tee HQ’s excellent travel and leadership opportunities.

Next Steps for First Tee’s Next Generation

As the world moves toward more technology and STEM based learning, First Tee wants to invest in tools that can improve skills while teaching important math and data skills. First Tee would like to buy the technology to help the next generation of Darceys improve their golf game alongside the valuable life skills First Tee offers.

The full cost of the technology First Tee needs for its winter programs is $5,200.

Below is an interview of Darcey as a 10th grader, and recent junior coach (published in 2019)

In Their Own Words: 

Darcey’s Favorite Nine Core Value: Integrity.  Since I started in First Tee I have learned more and more about the word integrity.  Integrity simply means doing good when someone in authority isn’t around.  I still think I have a bit of improvement to do but I feel like First Tee has helped me to understand the word more.

What is your favorite part of being a junior coach? I just love the overall experience.  Getting to know kids and teaching them what I learned when I was their age.  During my time as a junior coach, I have learned to be patient and to go with my gut on things.  This experience has helped me prepare for the career I want in the future.  I know my future career will require being a good communicator, being patient, and understanding.  All of those traits and more encourage me to make coaching at First Tee fun!

Darcey at age 10, participating at First Tee through their partnership with Bowen Elementary School in Kentwood.
Darcey, as a sophomore starting as a junior coach