Local teen golfer earns national honor


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Seven years ago, Jack Seufert joined The First Tee of West Michigan with few expectations.

“I just did it to go out there and have fun,” said Seufert, who will be a junior at East Grand Rapids High School in the fall. “Now that I’ve done it for more years, I understand the bigger picture about it.”

Seufert more than understands. He recently found he was one of just nine teens selected from among more than 30,000 to participate in the CoBank Peak Performers Academy hosted by game great Sir Nick Faldo.

He earned recognition after proving himself a standout leader in the classroom, on the golf course and through his writing about the impact The First Tee of West Michigan has had on his life. 

“It’s a pretty big responsibility,” Seufert said of the honor. “I’m not only representing my family but the whole First Tee across the nation.”

First Tee is a junior golf program that aims to teach kids about personal values and healthy living.

“Jack, tee to green, is just remarkably consistent,” Tyler Smies, executive director of The First Tee of West Michigan, said. “You don’t see the big misses from Jack that you might see from other students his age and he’s composed on the golf course.”

While Seufert comes from a golfing family — his late grandfather Ernie Popiel was a legendary coach at Forest Hills Northern — many kids in the First Tee program are not.  

“Golf is just the vehicle,” Smies said. “The end goal is not to create these fantastic golfers. We want people who are going to grow up to be high quality, high integrity men and women.”

“It’s not just about golf,” Seufert said. “I think that’s really important because not everything is out on the course. You have to do stuff in real life, too.”

Seven other golfers from The First Tee of West Michigan earned spots in various national camps this summer, too.  

“The kids we have going this year are uniquely gifted in that they’re humble,” Smies said.

While Seufert’s camp may be the most prestigious, he didn’t need an award to prove what he’s already been doing for quite some time.  

The First Tee of West Michigan ninth Annual Golf Outing is at Thousand Oaks July 29, with shotgun starts at 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The money raised goes to helping students receive scholarships to The First Tee programs.

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