Meet The First Tee of Metro Atlanta Alumna, Jakari Harris
The First Tee® of Atlanta and The First Tee® of East Lake have announced today that effective July 1, 2019 they will combine to become The First Tee® of Metro Atlanta. The consolidated organization will significantly broaden its impact throughout Metro Atlanta by increasing program locations and offering expanded golf and life-skills programming opportunities for youth participants.
The mission of The First Tee® of Metro Atlanta is to positively impact the lives of Metro Atlanta’s young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.
The First Tee® of Metro Atlanta is a charitable beneficiary of the TOUR Championship, which will welcome the top 30 players on the PGA TOUR back to East Lake Golf Club for the season finale, August 21-25. Following the 2018 TOUR Championship, tournament officials announced that just over $3 million was donated from the 2018 event – a tournament record – with more than $30 million invested in local nonprofits since the event was first staged at East Lake Golf Club in 1998.
Along with The First Tee® of Metro Atlanta, proceeds from the TOUR Championship primarily benefit the East Lake Foundation, the Grove Park Foundation and Purpose Built Schools Atlanta.
This is the story of Jakari Harris, an alumna of The First Tee® of Metro Atlanta. She graduated from Drew in 8th Grade and later from Woodward Academy. In 2015, she hit the ceremonial tee shot at the TOUR Championship and committed to play golf with Hampton University on a full scholarship. She is now the captain of Hampton’s Women’s Golf Team. Jakari recently received the prestigious George A. Cristenberry Award. This award is presented each year to 10 student-athletes in the Big South Conference who have earned the highest GPAs during their undergraduate collegiate careers. Jakari currently holds a 4.06 GPA in Chemical Engineering.
Q: What values did you take away from The First Tee Program that helped get you to where you are today?
A: The First Tee’s 9 core values have always guided me through my life’s journey, on-and-off the course. My favorite values that I live by are integrity and perseverance. The beauty of The First Tee is that while golf development is one of the main objectives of the program, this youth-development program has helped to build my character and become a better person overall.
Q: What inspired you to pursue playing the game of golf at the collegiate level?
A: I played nearly every sport growing up, but golf stood out from all the rest. I couldn’t believe how mentally tough the game was, so of course I sought to excel at the sport. Over the years, I noticed there weren’t many people the looked like me. It’s one thing to be African American in this sport, but to be female too was especially intimidating. I knew that playing at the collegiate level would show some kind of representation and allow me to be a role model for others like me.
Q: What pride do you take in attending Drew Charter School?
A: I hate that I wasn’t able to matriculate to the high school, but I am so grateful that I was able to attend Drew for the 3 years I was able. Drew Charter School has the kind of community and family feeling that you can’t find anywhere else. The teachers and staff genuinely care about who you are and where you end up. Not only that, but Drew prides itself on STEM, now STEAM, disciplines amongst its students. I have always been very strong in the math and sciences. Drew made sure that I never felt bored and the teachers always pushed me to do better in the classroom. Drew Charter School was the only school that felt like family.
Q: What do you remember from hitting the ceremonial tee shot at the TOUR Championship in 2015? Were you nervous?
A: I remember every single moment from when I pulled through the East Lake Golf Club gates to when I hit the ball. I remember hitting on the range and just seeing everyone looking at me. Personally, I don’t like being the center of attention so this was nerve-wracking. When I walked up to the first tee, I remember someone telling me that I could hit 2 balls if I mess up the first time. One of The First Tee’s 9 core values is confidence. I remember Coach Jeff and Nyre stressing that I had to have complete and utter confidence in myself and my swing to hit it well. I told my dad that I only need one ball, because I ‘m going to get it right the first time. When they announced my name, I just remembered that scene in “The Greatest Game Ever Played” where Harry Vardon addressed the ball and tuned out everything except himself and the hole. I just focused on hitting the same shot I had been practicing for the past few days. Next thing I knew, I hit a slight draw down the fairway.
Q: Who is your biggest role model? Why?
A: I always struggle with this question. I don’t think I can attribute a role model to just one person. I draw from many different people in my family and my community. The First Tee of East Lake taught me the importance of community and giving back. They also showed me that people unrelated to you by blood can still be your family. My mother, Cheryl Love, and my First Tee Coach, Brittny Lott, hold me strong in my faith. Their love for the Lord inspires me each and every day. I am so proud of my little brother DeGreer and all that he has accomplished. He inspires me to strive to be the very best I can be. My mom tells me that DeGreer and Chanel, my little sister, look up to me but little do they know I look to them as well. Their hard work inspires and motivates me to go for what I want.
Q: Who is your favorite PGA TOUR player and why?
A: I’m not sure why, but I have always been a fan of Zach Johnson. He just seems like a really genuine guy that holds true to himself. I was a volunteer standard bearer for the TOUR Championship for 5 years. I remember we were on the 11th hole, now the 2nd hole, and he asked me how I was doing. It’s the little things that really speak to someone’s character, and Zach Johnson has it.
Q: Following graduation, what do you have planned to do next?
A: I hope to obtain a joint MD/PhD in Biomedical Engineering. Being a tutor at Hampton helped me discover my love for teaching, so I aspire to eventually become a professor. With that, I would also love to open up and direct an educational program that exposes children, especially underrepresented ones, to the STEM fields. Lastly, I will become a First Tee coach. The First Tee of East Lake coaches are like family and have greatly influenced the kind of player and person I have become. This program has done so much for me and would be more than happy to pay it forward.