GAM BLOG:The First Tee From a Volunteer Coach?s Perspective

The First Tee From a Volunteer Coach’s Perspective

By Danny Stone/USGA Boatwright Intern


I became aware of the West Michigan chapter of The First Tee after moving to Big Rapids, MI to become a Pre-Professional Golf Management student at Ferris State University.   I didn’t know a soul in Big Rapids and had, at best, a fuzzy picture of what the PGM program would entail. 

When I heard about The First Tee, the idea of becoming a volunteer coach excited me. I wanted to share my passion for the game with disadvantaged youth.

I remember showing up the first day to volunteer. On the way to The First Tee Grand Rapids, I reminded myself to relax. I have the tendency to be very boisterous and didn’t want First Tee Grand Rapids Executive Director Tyler Smies to think I was trying to run the show. I was just so enthusiastic about my new volunteer gig that I could not wait to dive in and start working with the kids!

I had never really done anything like this before, but I’ve always felt a connection with kids.  So I wasn’t surprised that I got along great with all of the First Tee kids.

Maybe I felt so comfortable because I still feel like a kid inside!

I value the innocence, creativity and imagination of children. I had a great childhood but recognize that many of the kids involved with The First Tee programs come from challenging situations. Kids with financial need, many from single-parent homes, can blossom in a First Tee program  Kids who live in an unsafe environment can find security and friendship at The First Tee.

As great as it was to teach these kids about swinging the golf club, it made me feel great to be teaching these kids about core values that they could use on and off the golf course.  The First Tee promotes nine core values encompassing  respect, honesty, integrity, and responsibility.  It was apparent to me that these were new concepts for some of the kids.

It made me feel like I was really enhancing the lives of those kids just by talking about those core values and their importance on and off the golf course.

Surely, showing a young kid how to grip a club or make a smooth putting stroke is rewarding, but watching them understand and give examples of how they had been responsible at home or in school that week took the cake for me.  You could see them learning, understanding, and having fun. 

Being immersed in The First Tee and watching the metamorphosis of some of those kids really struck a chord with me and enabled me to look at some changes in my life in different way.

Leaving my family and moving away to Big Rapids was a huge step for me.  I hadn’t spent extended periods of time away from home before and I was far away from my friends. I’d always bene close with my family and living apart from them was a major adjustment for me.  Driving an hour to Grand Rapids on Saturday’s to coach at the First Tee gave me something to look forward to.  It made me feel needed and appreciated but truly, I needed and appreciated those kids too. 

The First Tee gives kids who would likely never be exposed to golf a chance to learn our great game.  Every coach I came across during my time there shared my passion for the growth of the game and making a difference for the kids.  It was a truly awesome experience. 

There are seven First Tee chapters in Michigan including the newest First Tee of Greater Detroit – back after a brief hiatus.  If anyone is interested in learning more about becoming a coach or getting a child involved I would encourage you to contact an area chapter or reach out to me.  I love talking about it! 

You can reach Danny Stone at 248-478-9242 ext. 119 or [email protected]. For more information about The First Tee: