First Tee teaches kids more than the game of golf at IMA Brookwood Golf Course

FLINT, Michigan — First Tee, a national non-profit organization, introduces the game of golf to children while incorporating lessons for personal success and development that will last a lifetime. The organization first began in 2011 and has been assisting kids to develop strong interpersonal skills and habits since.

First Tee of Eastern Michigan started out with only 50 kids at the IMA Brookwood Golf Course. After proving to be successful, they now offer its services to over 500 kids in Genesee, Lapeer, Midland, and Bay Counties. Diane Wojciechowski, the executive director for First Tee of Eastern Michigan, says the actual mission is education and life skills taught through the game of golf. 

The program starts with children as young as 5 and continues through the age of 18. Children begin with the basics of golf at age five before incorporating life lessons at age seven.

“Starting with the seven-year-olds, we start talking about our first key values: honesty, integrity, judgment, and sportsmanship. We talk about these values in each class and it’s brief, especially with the younger kids,” says Wojciechowski.

She stated that they make it fun for the kids — especially kids under the age of 7 — to make sure they want to come back every week. “Starting with the basics gets them off on a good track with good fundamentals since they're a little too young to understand core values,” she said. 

Lillee Anne Jacobs described her experience as a participant in the program in a letter written to IMA Brookwood Golf Course and the First Tee of Eastern Michigan. 
Children enjoying a game of golf at First Tee of Eastern Michigan.
“The First Tee of Eastern Michigan is a life-changing program,” she said. “I started the program when I was 7-years-old, and it definitely has shaped me into the person I am today. My high school days are now focused around golf and shaped by the core values of the program.” 

First Tee also offers a national school program where teachers are provided with the curriculum and assistance in order to deliver the program in the classroom. “We're actually delivering programs to over 14,000 kids right now,” says Wojciechowski. “So that's pretty exciting. We have programs in Genesee, Midland, Bay, and Saginaw County.”

First Tee ensures that children who participate in the program feel safe, welcome, and included. Wojciechowski says they conduct background checks and training on all volunteers and coaches to guarantee safety. 

“First Tee offers a lot of training to coaches, to the executive directors, and to all our volunteer coaches. A lot of thought goes into training them as far as how to instruct golf and how to be safe with kids,” she said.

The children that participate in the program come from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds according to Wojciechowski.

“We have just about every ethnicity here and the kids get along well, especially when they've been in the program for a few years,” says Wojciechowski. “They get to know each other. They may not go to the same schools and they may not be in the same neighborhoods but they look forward to seeing their friends and First Tee every year.”

First Tee always accepts monetary as well as golf equipment donations to help run the program. Wojciechowski also welcomes the community to join in on fundraisers and other events that occur throughout the year.

For more info on First Tee of Eastern Michigan, visit: firstteeeasternmichigan.org