Each year The First Tee of Benton Harbor hosts a scholarship dinner and awards scholarships to selected senior chapter participants, to be used for their college endeavors. This year, The First Tee of Benton Harbor awarded four participants with a scholarship: Cailey Rooker, Davis Longyear, Sam Ondrias, and Grace Ondrias. The Volunteer of the Year award will be presented to Geri Stober.

Cailey Rooker attends Saint Joseph High School, and has been a standout athlete for the Bears. Cailey is on her way to Valparaiso University after she graduates from Saint Joe.

“After high school, I’m attending Valparaiso University in Indiana,” said Rooker. “I’ll be studying Health Sciences through their PA program and will also participate on the women’s golf team.”

Cailey has been an active participant in The First Tee for the last 10 years.

“I’ve been a participant of The First Tee since I was eight years old, about 10 years ago,” said Rooker. “I joined the program when the chapter was located in a school building in Benton Harbor which was used for both The First Tee and The Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harbor.”

In 2017, Cailey participated in The Pure Insurance Pro-Am held at Pebble Beach.

“My favorite memory at The First Tee was participating in the Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach in 2017. I learned a lot from my professional Colin Montgomerie and made several friends from across the country.”

Sam Ondrias is a senior at Saint Joseph High School, and has been an avid golfer for the Bears. Sam’s post-graduation plans are to attend Lake Michigan College.

“I plan to attend Lake Michigan College in this upcoming fall. After two years there, I will then transfer to a school for graphic design,” said Sam, “I have been involved with The First Tee for as long as I can remember. I believe I joined the program when I was 9 years old.”

When Sam was asked to give advice to younger participants working towards this scholarship, he said, “It’s not about the way you answer their questions on the paper, it is more about what you have done to help your community and The First Tee.”

Grace Ondrias is also a senior at Saint Joseph High School and has been an active member of the Lady Bears golf team her entire high school career.  Grace plans to attend Lake Michigan College after graduation.

“After I graduate I plan to attend LMC for two years to complete my general education,” said Grace.  “I will then transfer to Central Michigan University to complete my academics.”

Grace has been a participant at The First Tee since she was nine years old and has some advice for younger participants.

“My advice for younger participants thinking about applying for these scholarships is to just simply apply. It doesn’t hurt you to apply and being selected for one of the scholarships will help a lot with college plans.”

Grace’s favorite memories at The First Tee involved the summer program play nights on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“My favorite memory would be the play nights at Harbor Shores because I would go out with a group of girls and every time it wouldn’t necessarily be about the golf, but more about the friendships being built.”

Davis Longyear was also selected to receive a scholarship. Davis is a senior at Lakeshore High school where he has played golf competitively for years. His post-graduation plans also include golf.

“I am going to attend Sienna Heights University to play on the men’s golf team as well as major in Business Administration.”

Davis has been in The First Tee program for seven years and his favorite memory is playing alongside Senior PGA tour players at the PURE Insurance Championship hosted at Pebble Beach.

“I am very grateful to receive this scholarship,” said Longyear, “I won’t have to worry as much about earning money to pay for college, and I will have more time to focus on academics and golf.”

The First Tee of Benton Harbor’s 2019 Volunteer of the Year is Geri Stober. Geri has two children who are participants of The First Tee and has been volunteering for programs since 2013.

“I love to volunteer. Once I saw what a positive, supportive, and encouraging program The First Tee is, I wanted to be a part of it.” said Stober, “I was blown away by the fact that these kids are not only taught golf, but they are also taught how to be a good sport, how to be respectful, and numerous other manners that many kids aren’t taught.”

When Stober was asked for advice to potential volunteers, “First I would tell them my experience with the program and how wonderful it has been. Then I would tell them to reach out to friendly staff; they’re always very helpful and appreciative of volunteers.”

The First Tee of Benton Harbor Scholarship Dinner was Thursday, May 16th at the Inn at Harbor Shores. The scholarship winners along with Geri Stober, our Volunteer of the Year, were honored.