Editor’s note: This story appears in the 2020 GAM Michigan Links Course Directory that is being sent to members this month.
DETROIT – In 1979, a group of African-American female golfers from metro Detroit started the Tee-Set Golf Club to share their passion for golf, introduce young people to the game and challenge the status quo.
Tee-Set continues to thrive today, poised to reach even greater achievements.
The founders grew the organization by inviting friends to become charter members. The group then drew on its influence to improve playing conditions and access to public golf courses for women and people of color.
From protesting to supporting the creation of women-focused golf organizations such as the Michigan Women’s Golf Association, Tee-Set members have continued their legacy of growing the game and providing educational opportunities via scholarships to deserving high school and college students. In 1980, they established a junior golf program to introduce students to the sport and provide instruction and course etiquette training.
Going beyond the game, Tee-Set programs often instill important life skills. The club’s program model is frequently cited as a standard for similar programs.
Founding member Arlena Franklin, now in her 90s, is proud of Tee-Set’s longevity and the 40-year legacy she and her friends spurred.
“When we began the club, we never thought or imagined our efforts would continue to inspire women golfers and encourage young people to golf 40 years later,” she says.
The endeavor was not without obstacles. Tee-Set founders constantly faced difficulty securing tee times at public courses and had to prove themselves. Over time, they changed the perception of women, and African-American female golfers were invited to play at notable golf courses around the area.
Ultimately, they were driven — as members remain today — to challenge myths and misconceptions about golf being a male sport and not for women, especially those of color.
A celebration event for the club’s 40th anniversary in 2019 provided a unique opportunity to commemorate that pioneering history, reaffirm the club’s mission and inspire the next generation of women golfers. It also provided an opportunity for Franklin to experience firsthand the legacy she helped create.
“An important part of our legacy is the highly professional, extremely talented and diverse club membership who are extraordinary leaders in their respective fields,” says Juanita Reid, 2019 Tee-Set president. “We are dedicated to fulfilling the club’s mission and to supporting young people in their educational and golf pursuits.”
Several key characteristics shared by Franklin and many current Tee-Set members are an affinity for the game, a desire to engage both young people and women, and a steadfast commitment to learn and play by the rules of golf and host competitive events for women.
“Going forward, we will recommit ourselves to maintaining the Tee-Set Golf Club as a continuing force in golf for women in general and minority women in particular throughout southeastern Michigan,” says Inez Bridges, 2020 Tee-Set President and Sponsorship Coordinator for the Golf Association of Michigan.
“While upholding our founding creed and ideology, we are dedicated to growing our membership, continuing to host competitive golf events and providing a welcoming environment for like-minded women golfers.”
As the next chapter unfolds, the Tee-Set Golf Club’s trailblazing legacy will be continuing to inspire future generations of golfers, expanding its community of women golfers, erasing the stereotypical view of female and diverse golfers that is still prevalent today, and continuing to challenge the status quo.
Written by RENÉE T. WALKER/ Photos by DAVID DALTON