First Hand First Tee Experience

Monica Lalinde Cooper, CGCS

Monica Cooper is the superintendent at the First Tee of Smyrna at the Smyrna Municipal Golf Course in Tennessee.

She started playing golf when she was fourteen years old and went on to coach and play in college while pursuing a degree in Environmental Health Technology. Unfortunately, her newly found position was cut short when she woke up one morning unable to walk. Doctors said her career as a golfer was over. Her back could no longer take the constant stress of play. If she continued, she would risk the possibility of permanently being unable to walk, but Monica knew it wasn't the end of her days on the golf course.

At the urging of one of her professors, Monica expanded her studies to include turfgrass management. If she couldn't play, she would manage, and in 1985 she graduated with an associates degree in Turfgrass Management and Environmental Health Technology. Monica began her career as a superintendent in 1990 and has worked at Smyrna Municipal Golf Course since 1997.

The initiative to pursue a First Tee in Smyrna came while working on a feasibility study to add nine more holes to the existing layout at Smyrna Municipal Golf Course. Monica and Hal Loflin, PGA professional learned the additional holes would qualify as a First Tee.

Monica feels one of the most rewarding aspects of being involved with The First Tee program is the opportunity to provide a quality place for kids from all backgrounds to learn and enjoy the game of golf and the fundamental values that are its foundation. She also finds it rewarding to see the smiles and the empowered look you see in kids and their parents when they are provided with equipment and a place to develop their skills without regard to who they are or where they come from.

Monica is responsible for the design, construction, grow-in and maintenance at the facility. She says, "The First Tee experience has allowed me to sharpen the skills I already have, and it's enabled me to learn a lot of new ones both personally and professionally. It's renewed my commitment to my profession."

When asked what advice she could give others aspiring to get involved with The First Tee, she replied, "Sharpen your people skills, network, network and then network some more! Don't be afraid to ask for help and explore all the resources available to you either through The First Tee, or local organizations. Your community will surprise you with their support and contributions when you work with kids."