Midnight Golf Program leader Winston Coffee.
Photo provided by Winston Coffee
One doesn’t have to look far to see what miracles are happening in the everyday activities at the Midnight Golf Program (MGP) in Detroit.
MGP started as a safe streets’ initiative (along with the now-defunct Midnight Basketball program), and a renowned academic enrichment and professional polishing program that focuses on helping students in college, career development and beyond.
The game of golf is used to introduce discipline, strategy and career-boosting skills because being comfortable out on the course comes in handy when a young professional is networking to navigate their way to the top.
MGP’s very own founder, Renee Fluker, knows firsthand the work that the program and her team provide to youth who otherwise may have never been introduced to the sport.
A major component of Midnight Golf’s College Success Team is to assist students in finding the right college fit. Annually, they take to the roads across the nation and visit a number of colleges and universities in just a few days.
Winston Coffee, college success coach and college liaison at the MGP, assists and navigates high school and college students to and through their college careers, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Coffee told the Michigan Chronicle that he has been with the program since around 2008 and he started as a mentor with the program and transitioned to working for the organization.
“Building relationships with different institutions around the country [helps] to create opportunities for young people to land safely,” Coffee said, adding that MGP is very intentional about its plans to introduce students of color to accessible opportunities in the world of higher education. “Golf is a tool we teach young people. Most students of color don’t have access to [that] kind of thing. Golf can open up doors.”
Known as a networking sport, just simply knowing how to play golf can lead to open doors, job opportunities and rubbing shoulders with the who’s who. This popular sport, however, is still dominated by white men primarily. CNN reported that in the United States, 82 percent of all golfers are white, while 25 percent of junior golfers (aged 6-17) were not white; also, about 25 percent of people who played on a golf course for the first time in 2017 were not white.
Renee Fluker, founder and president of MGP, told the Michigan Chronicle that she started the organization 20 years ago, after being inspired by her son who played golf in high school.
“He would complain that no Black kids know how to play golf,” she said, adding that he asked her once while in college to come up with a way to help Black kids learn to play golf, which she did.
“The goal now is to teach them golf and get them in college and the thing now is ‘college career and beyond,’” she said, adding that about 100 students a night come to their programs held multiple times a week at Marygrove.
Coffee said that once the program’s youth learn the game’s soft skills (like communication, networking, sportsmanship) they are well on their way to incorporating their knowledge off the golf course and into college, finding internships, and more.
“[Students will] feel comfortable navigating talking to people,” he said, adding that years ago he did not see himself in this position, ironically when he was attending college.
“I didn’t have a Midnight Golf program to support my [vision],” Coffee said, adding that family support took him to a certain level. “They did the best they could with what they knew [but I] didn’t have the same type of access.”
Now, working with young people in the program, he can be a part of other people’s villages to help them along their way.
“Offer insight, information in spaces and ways I wish I had it,” he said, adding that the program and golfing overall for minorities is picking up steam. “In general, there seems to be more [people playing golf in the] past two or three years.”
He added that during the early days of the pandemic playing golf was still acceptable because it could be played outside with social distancing – and when exposure and opportunity meet for students, greatness is attainable.
“At Midnight Golf that is what we hang our hats on – putting young people in front of opportunities you don’t know … it opens your mind into what else is possible — what other things you can aspire for and achieve as far as being exposed to something new and different,” Coffee said.