The First Tee Miami youth golf program has found a new home at Miami Lakes Golf Club.
“The Graham family is excited to welcome First Tee,” said Stuart Wyllie, president and chief executive officer of The Graham Companies. “We have a longstanding relationship with the DeLucca family, going back to the opening of the golf course in 1962.”
First Tee lost its former location at the International Links Miami - Melreese Country Club near Miami International Airport. That course is the future site of a professional soccer stadium.
On March 23, First Tee signed a deal with the Miami Lakes Golf Club’s owner, The Graham Companies. It opened in town on March 27.
First Tee will continue its history of teaching children of all abilities how to play golf, instructing players from ages 4 to 18 in the traditions of the game and how to compete with integrity, resolve conflicts, manage emotions and set goals.
After-school tutoring is also offered, and students will not be turned away for financial reasons, First Tee Miami executives said.
A renovation of the Miami Lakes Golf Course is part of a $110 million development, called The Residences & Shops on NINE.
The project at 7601 Miami Lakes Drive will include new golf course drainage; a clubhouse; driving range building and a 278-unit apartment building. It will also feature a destination restaurant, commercial or retail space and a banquet hall.
The golf course will remain open for play during construction and First Tee Miami will operate from trailers.
The late Charlie DeLucca was a town resident and the first golf pro at the Miami Lakes Country Club (later known as Shula’s Golf Club and now named the Miami Lakes Golf Club) when it opened six decades ago. His son Charlie DeLucca III has lived in town for 55 years and ran the First Tee program with his father in Miami. He will oversee it in Miami Lakes.
“My dad started the Dade Amateur Golf Association in 1963 in Miami Lakes,” DeLucca said. DAGA joined the national First Tee program when it began 25 years ago, and DeLucca established it in Miami.
With the organization moving to town, he said, “We’re coming home.”
Former students include Erik Compton and Cristie Kerr, who became golf professionals, he said.
Currently, First Tee Miami is offering Little Links courses for boys and girls ages 4 to 7; the Orange Bowl Drive for Excellence program for girls ages 7 and older; Tuesday After School Clinics for boys; Saturday and Sunday Clinics for boys and girls; an Elite Program for competitive golfers; monthly tournaments; a varsity high school program and PGA Junior League.
There are LPGA and PGA professionals on staff who will teach. First Tee Miami will also offer Special Olympics training and classes for athletes with special needs, a passion for the elder DeLucca that will continue.
The program’s goals are “to develop boys and girls golf teams at every school within 5 miles of our golf course location,” said Felicia Leftinger, First Tee Miami’s executive director.
“We would like to engage the Miami Lakes Optimist, churches and all of the youth service locations in the community and introduce them to the game of golf at the Miami Lakes Golf Club,” she said.
The organization is “very thankful to the Graham Family, the mayor and the [town council] for bringing First Tee to Miami Lakes and giving us this opportunity to operate and deliver programs in the community,” she said.
Shown in the photo: First Tee Miami participant and volunteer Sara Matos teaches Mya Lee Reid, 3, about holding a golf club in March in Miami. Mya is also a participant at GiGi’s Playhouse in Miami Lakes. The First Tee Miami youth golf program has moved from the International Links Miami - Melreese Country Club to Miami Lakes Golf Club. It strives to teach the game of golf to young players of all skill levels, including to children who may have special needs. First Tee also offers after-school tutoring. Courtesy photo.