First Tee has always been a big part of her life, said Malisone Chanthapanya, who has been involved with the program since she was just 5. Now she’s graduating from Texas Wesleyan University, but the First Tee – Fort Worth alumna said she still has deep roots in the organization.
“First Tee is why I started golf,” she said. “I have a lot of friendships from First Tee, and the relationships I built there keep me connected to the organization.” Mali still volunteers as a coach at First Tee – Fort Worth and occasionally plays golf at chapter events.
Mali received her bachelor’s degree in finance on May 13. Of course, it was an exciting day for her family and friends, who celebrated with a big party. But it was also a milestone for First Tee as Mali became the initial First Tee Scholar to complete her undergraduate education.
The First Tee Scholars program provides mentorship, professional development opportunities and up to $20,000 in financial support for exceptional First Tee alumni during their college journeys.
“All of the Scholars are pretty close. I really like my mentor and the speakers they’ve brought in to talk to us. It’s been interesting to hear from people from all different backgrounds and jobs and experiences,” Mali said.
As First Tee is preparing to announce its 2023 scholar class, her advice to the group: “I think it’s important to be flexible and to manage your time well. The workload is really different than high school, especially being away from home for the first time.”
Mali completed her degree in just two years. She’s always been ahead of the curve: She was the youngest participant from First Tee – Fort Worth ever to earn her ACE certification, the highest achievement First Tee offers.
Mali won’t be leaving Fort Worth after graduation. She’s a member of the Texas Wesleyan golf team and still has two years of eligibility remaining. She’ll continue to play for the team as a grad student.
“Honestly sometimes I complain about missing school or balancing golf and schoolwork, but playing with the team has been my favorite part of my college experience. I’m able to travel and do what I love, meet new people and play new golf courses,” she said.
Mali was named to the All-Conference team as a sophomore. Playing at nationals during freshman year is her favorite collegiate golf memory so far. Her team finished eighth. “I really enjoyed spending time with them throughout the year, so that was just a fun end to the season,” she said.
In graduate school, Mali plans to focus on data analytics and supply chain management.