It’s rare when a program’s needs align so closely with a new opportunity. When it does happen, organizations like First Tee that operate on smaller budgets must take advantage. One of those opportunities has arrived. Randy White, First Tee staffer, and PGA Professional will shift into a new role as First Tee’s Director of Instruction. We are excited about the impact White (Coach Randy) will make on our most vulnerable students through this new role.
First Tee’s mantra is “Building Game Changers.” We are a youth development program. The platform that we use to develop young people is the game of golf. The new Director of Instruction position will perfectly blend First Tee’s ability to develop high character, high integrity young men and women with our students’ need for a deeper, more technical golf experience.
First Tee West Michigan has heard a similar question over and over again from its parents since its inception in 2011. It goes something like this: “We love First Tee and Coach [Fill in the Blank]. My kid has loved the First Tee experience and is REALLY getting into golf. We’re wondering if you can recommend an individual instructor in the area?”
We love this question – it tells us the family and the participant are ALL in. Almost without fail, these families become some of our most engaged participants, learning First Tee skills like goal setting, conflict resolution, and of course, our Nine Core Values. They end up playing high school golf, and for some, they even end up playing college golf or go to college for Professional Golf Management. The issue since 2011 has been with WHO asks this question.
Most families that ask for recommendations for individual instruction have two characteristics:
#1. They have financial means. This means they can afford the $60-$100 hourly rate that is required for an individual golf lesson with a PGA Professional.
#2. They often come from a family of golfers. They know the impact individual instruction can make on their child’s golf game, so they pursue it.
Our most vulnerable students usually are missing one or both of these characteristics, and therefore rarely ask about individual instruction. First Tee needs to pursue its own students with limited golf background and disposable income, and offer the opportunity for instruction. Parents who didn’t grow up around the game often don’t know the value of individual instruction or don’t believe they can afford it. This is where our Director of Instruction Role comes in.
How PGA Professionals have helped until now
For nearly a decade, First Tee has recommended PGA Professionals to its participants, and they’ve been incredibly generous with our students. Local pros we’ve recommended to our students include Raquel Bryant (Thousand Oaks), Jeff Caminiti (Maple Hill), Ian Hughes (Golf Tec), Andre Pillow (Blythefield CC), Brandon Roby (Cascade Hills), John Seltzer (Quail Ridge), and Charley Vandenberg (Thousand Oaks). Many of these pros have offered discounted or free lessons to our families. We will continue to recommend these and other pros to our full-price students. Several of these pros have generously taken 1-2 First Tee students on scholarship annually into their instruction program at a discounted rate or free.
But these professionals are busy, and if they give their time away, they need to be certain the student is “all in” before they begin. Oftentimes, our scholarship students have barriers like inconsistent schedules, lack of transportation, lack of opportunity to practice, etc. First Tee wants to build a bridge to these families to ensure they have the same opportunities for individual instruction and that they know about that opportunity.
How it will work
Through Randy White, PGA Professional and new Director of Instruction, First Tee students in all communities (Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland, and now Kalamazoo) will be able to register for individual lessons with Coach Randy on our website. They will work within the V1 Golf App to see uploaded swing videos and review past lessons. During COVID-19, students will also be able to send videos for a mobile lesson. These instruction videos will be available for students at any time to show their other First Tee coaches to ensure communication is aligned.
First Tee will actively pursue and offer students on scholarship this opportunity. Any child eligible for free or reduced-price lunch at school (an indicator of financial need) can receive First Tee’s scholarship rate of $5 for a six-class session. In 2020, First Tee also added any family experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19 to the list of those eligible for the scholarship.
First Tee will offer students on scholarship hourly lessons for just $15, but will not turn away a family for their inability to pay. Group lesson rates will also be available, and non-scholarship students can also get lessons for $70. By working with Coach Randy, First Tee can offer this opportunity to students who are younger and less-seasoned in First Tee, capturing them earlier. Informing parents and guardians about this opportunity for their child, and doing it at an earlier age can open up many opportunities, including:
- Playing on First Tee’s PGA Junior League Teams (4 currently)
- Participating on a High School JV or Varsity Golf Team
- Becoming eligible for First Tee HQ Opportunities, which requires being at the Birdie Level or Higher
- Getting a job at a local course as a caddie or in the bag room
- Becoming a Junior Coach at First Tee
- College Golf Scholarships
- And many more
Each lesson offered to First Tee students on scholarship will be subsidized by First Tee’s budget. Already, a generous donor from Grand Rapids has committed $12,500 to this program in 2021, including more than $9,500 in subsidized lessons (a projected 165 group and individual lessons). Your gift would ensure even more students would have access to these subsidized lessons with Coach Randy.
Why Coach Randy White?
White has served as First Tee’s Holland Area Director since 2017. He’s led the growth in Holland from its start to now serving 150-180 students annually, fundraising and managing a $100,000 budget, and managing roughly 25 volunteers and 5 part-time Lead Coaches. But his heart is in instruction.
In his 35-year career as a PGA Professional, White has instructed some of the finest high school golfers in West Michigan, including leading multiple area high school girls golf teams to state appearances, including Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Mona Shores. In addition, Randy has run the MSHAA’s Girls Golf State Championships for the past several years, building relationships with hundreds of high school golf coaches. Outside of golf, prior to his work at First Tee, White served as an area director for First Priority, a faith-based school mentoring program.
White is also a Level III First Tee Coach and knows First Tee’s life skills and values curriculum well. He will be able to seamlessly weave First Tee’s life skills like goal setting, conflict resolution, appreciating diversity, and of course, First Tee’s Nine Core Values into his golf instruction with First Tee participants. He has already taught PLAYer, Par, Birdie, and Eagle classes, and knows how to communicate with students at each level. This winter, with COVID-19 limiting group opportunities, Randy has opened up his personal home golf studio in Muskegon for “Open Hitting” and has already seen significant swing improvement from participants. Randy will also provide lessons during the winter in Grand Rapids in the future.
In addition to improving our participants’ golf skills, we also see instruction with White leading to higher retention and progression amongst our students on scholarship, leading them to more First Tee and golf opportunities in the future.
As White leads this new initiative, First Tee hopes to add other PGA Professionals to the program in its communities. Through training, these instructors can learn the curriculum of First Tee, and serve as instructors, offering the subsidized lessons to more students in more communities.
Your support of this new initiative ensures that more students on scholarship get this opportunity, and have all the top-level instruction possible. Thank you for your consideration!