Margo Coleman uses golf to help teach young people skills for a successful life
For the last two decades, Margo Coleman has worked to give amateur golfers across the state numerous opportunities to improve their skills as players.
Her work even helped some junior golfers earn college scholarships.
Now, as executive director of First Tee of Central Mississippi, she will be working not only to help kids learn the game of golf but will use the game of golf to help kids become better people.
Margo was recently named executive director of First Tee. She joins the group after serving 19 years as executive director of the Mississippi Golf Association (MGA).
The former college golfer looks forward to the new challenge and hopes to expand First Tee’s reach to serve even more young people.
“We’re here, we’re growing and ready to bring golf to all the kids in the community,” she said.
Right now, Margo is working to set up new offices at the Deerfield golf course in Madison County. She also recently hired a new programming director for First Tee and is leading the group as it kicks off its spring programming.
Recently, First Tee held a spring kick-off clinic, which drew 35 participants. The group has also signed up 13 kids for the spring life skills experience program.
She hopes to increase the number of participants significantly for the summer and fall life skills programs later this year.
First Tee uses golf to focus on nine core development areas: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
Margo said golf is the perfect vehicle to teach these skills, citing the honesty and sportsmanship required in the game.
“The first lesson we did was respect for each other and respect for the course and honors and traditions of the game,” she said. “Each of the nine core values will have a golf skill that goes along with it.”
In addition to its life skills programs, First Tee offers in-school programs, including at McWillie Elementary, Ann Smith Elementary, and Madison Avenue Lower Elementary on the Northside.
“It’s not about becoming an excellent golfer, but setting goals for yourself, learning responsibility, respect, integrity,” she said. “You’re learning all of the life skills you need to be a successful young person and young adult. Golf is just the vehicle to get you there and (allow) you to have fun while you’re learning.”
In all, about 4,000 children are reached through the in-school and golf course-based programs each year.
Margo, a Hope, Ark. native, began playing golf when she was eight. She participated in junior golf in the 1980s and 1990s, and eventually earned a scholarship to play at the University of Mississippi.
“I didn’t break any records, but I had a good career,” she said. “I was a four-year letterman, met a lot of wonderful people, and traveled to wonderful places.
“It’s how I got introduced to my career. Through internships, I got my foot in the door to golf administration.”
While in college, Margo met her future husband, Eddie. Today, the couple has one son, Mac, who is five.
Margo graduated in 1998.
After Ole Miss, Margo landed a job at a women’s golf retailer in Arkansas. After that, she became public relations director of MGA. In December 2002, she took over as executive director.
“She did an amazing job,” said First Tee board member and sportswriter Rick Cleveland. “She made some great improvements in MGA, in particular, when it comes to junior golf.”
Junior golf is for children and teens up to 18 years of age.
Cleveland said under Margo’s tutelage, the association expanded the number of tournaments for junior play, giving young golfers additional opportunities to hone their skills, while also exposing them to new golf courses throughout the state.
“That’s why you see so many Mississippi juniors who are getting full rides – college scholarships to schools all over the South.”
Cleveland said Margo was also responsible for helping launch the Mississippi Golf Hall of Fame, which had its first class inducted in January.
He said Margo has brought the same energy to First Tee and is looking forward to the program’s future successes.
“She brings so much energy to the job. We’ve already kicked off the spring program, which had a lot more participants,” he said. “I think the big step is going to be the summer program, which she is already preparing for now.”
Margo was attracted to the position, in large part, because she wanted to spend more time with her family.
“There’s a lot of travel involved with the Mississippi Golf Association – being gone on the weekends, being gone four or five days at a time,” she said. “My (son) is five. He’s got activities and I don’t want to miss out.
“This was a great opportunity to stay involved in golf, expose other kids to golf, and spend more time at home with my family.”
First Tee is a nonprofit organization and is funded through private, individual and corporate sponsorships. The group also takes in-kind donations.
For more information, log onto www.thefirstteecentralmississippi.org.