DETROIT – The Midnight Golf Program has done wonders for African Americans in a sport that’s dominated by White males; however, that’s something the program is hoping to change.
“Midnight Golf started 20 years ago with only 17 students, and as of today, we’ve had 3,500 students,” said founder Renee Fluker.
For 20 years, the Midnight Golf Program has been taking kids off the streets and placing golf clubs in their hands -- giving them a different alternative in life. Fluker said the program started when her son had a rough time being the only person of color on his high school golf team.
“He used to come home and complain like ‘Mom, why my friends are not playing?’” Fluker said
From that moment, Fluker knew she would have to at least try and change up the culture.
“Things aren’t the way they should be. We should still have more African Americans out there playing golf,” she said.
That’s when she started the program in 2001, not only to help young African Americans get involved in golf, but also to help them through college with 16 mentors to help. The mentors are then able to become a resource for the children down the line to help them with whatever they may need from books to general guidance.
“Once the Midnight Golf student comes into the program -- as a senior and graduated from high school -- we go to college with them,” Fluker said.
Ultimately, it’s a way to make sure the kids are taken care of, even after tee time is over.
“Kids need structure. They need discipline and they need to know ‘How can I get to college and how am I get there if I’m the first generation? I don’t know anything about financial aid, I don’t know anything,’” Fluker said.
Over the years, the program has grown and the number of athletes continues to evolve.
“We had 700 applications in September. Out of 700, we interviewed 350 on zoom and out of zoom, we had face-to-face interviews and we got it down to 200,” Fluker said.
Many of those same students eagerly return with hopes of paying it forward.
“They always come back and say ‘You know Mr. Renee, I want to thank you for giving us these life skills.’ I want them to know that we are here for them,” Fluker said.