Step onto Marygrove College’s campus in Detroit and you’ll realize this is a special institution. The west-side campus provides a tranquil backdrop for learning with an institutional history of social justice. The pedigree for social action includes being an institution of higher learning for women long before it was a commonly accepted practice, an instrument of change for integrating the surrounding community and providing access to first-generation college scholars. It is all a part of an institutional vision to provide and develop leadership for metropolitan Detroit.
Innovation on social issues is a hallmark of Marygrove College. Innovation on the golf course is not. However, a unique partnership with Midnight Golf, Golf Magazine and famed golf course designer Tom Doak might just change this.
About four years ago, the college began collaborating with a group called Midnight Golf to engage kids in the community in learning the game of golf. The program fit well with the institution’s strengths in working with youth and leadership development.
“They (Midnight Golf) draw students to the program because of an interest in learning the game of golf,” said Dr. David Fike, President of Marygrove College. “But learning the game of golf, as they figure out along the way, is not what the program is about. They do learn golf but it is about life choices. It is about being accountable to those choices. It is about being motivated around those choices. These are all values good golfers have.”
The Midnight Golf program has grown to serving 140 kids this year in Marygrove’s gym during the winter season, teaching golf, life skills and college preparedness. When the weather turned, kids were transported to golfing facilities around the area to practice their game. With a growing program and the college beginning to transform the old gym into a modern exercise facility, the relationship with Marygrove was slated to change.
Since both parties wanted to continue working together, discussions never ceased. When Golf Magazine approached Midnight Golf about the potential for building a practice facility for the organization, they immediately proposed Marygrove College as the site. The college did their due diligence. Doak signed on to design the practice facility. The rest will be golf history.
The facility will allow every level of player to practice every type of golf shot, with the exception of the long tee shot. The sustainable design fits on a footprint of only 10 acres, integrated with a new soccer and track facility. It is the compact footprint that is drawing attention from all corners of the golfing world. Lacking the space for a highly-fertilized and heavily-watered large golf course that is en vogue with today’s golfer, Dr. Fike was excited to see the focus on sustainable design.
“As we begin to raise our awareness about how interwoven all of these gifts are, in the way nature is there for us to co-exist and co-create with . . . bringing in water usage, bringing in fertilizer and maintenance that’s done in a sustainable way is all part of this interesting project which is centered around access to the game of golf to inner-city youth,” said Dr. Fike.
Although minimizing the environmental impact of the practice course was important, the ability to give neighborhood kids access to the game of golf was a motivating factor in agreeing to this new development. While Dr. Fike is not a golfer, he embraces the lessons in self-discipline, the ability to develop relationships and how to act with integrity that athletic pursuits teach. He recognizes these as essential building blocks for leadership.
“We owe it to our young people to give them all of the tools necessary to succeed in life. That’s what leadership development is about,” he said.
That commitment to building leadership was a key in expanding athletic programs at Marygrove College as well. In fact, this facility will allow the golf program to move forward more quickly than he had anticipated.
When the practice facility opens this fall, it will be another chapter in Marygrove College’s rich history in breaking down barriers to access for kids in the city of Detroit. They also have the opportunity to rewrite the way golf courses and golf practice facilities are constructed around the country.