Diversity & Inclusion
May 3, 2022

First Tee Entrepreneurs Program: Meet Elijah Royal

The Fisk University graduate is one of the selectees of the inaugural program for aspiring entrepreneurs.

A man on a golf course
Diversity & Inclusion
May 3, 2022

First Tee Entrepreneurs Program: Meet Elijah Royal

The Fisk University graduate is one of the selectees of the inaugural program for aspiring entrepreneurs.

For 25 years, First Tee has used golf to teach lessons about life, providing affordable and accessible programs for youth of all ages and backgrounds. Through active learning experiences, digital activities, and on-the-course instruction, First Tee empowers kids and teens to build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that they can carry to everything they do.

For a decade, Wells Fargo has been a proud supporter of First Tee. From 2012 to 2021, through the Wells Fargo Succeeding Together contest, thousands of First Tee participants submitted essays detailing what First Tee has meant to them, showing its positive impact across the country. Each year, one winner was selected to play in the Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am with a PGA Tour golfer.

This year, Wells Fargo and First Tee are expanding their relationship by debuting the First Tee Future Entrepreneurs program. Available to First Tee alums who attended or graduated from historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, the program will provide mentorship and networking opportunities for participants interested in business or entrepreneurship, as well as a spot in the Pro-Am with a PGA Tour golfer.

The inaugural selectees of the program, Jakari Harris from Hampton University, Lennard Long from Morehouse College, and Elijah Royal and Joia Robertson, both from Fisk University, were selected by a national panel, and submitted an essay application focused on their future aspirations for their careers, golf, and life.

Meet Elijah Royal, a Fisk University graduate living in Lake County, Indiana

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‘Why not do that for someone else?’

Forty-two miles southeast of Chicago, near the banks of Lake Michigan, sits Merrillville, Indiana.

It’s a great area, Elijah Royal said, to venture outdoors. There are dozens of public parks, trails, and what he calls “hidden lakes.”

A passion for the outdoors is how Royal found the sport he loves.

“Golf, for me, has always been a good way to have a good time,” he said. “It’s never gotten to the point where it was overbearing, because you’re outside in the fresh weather, having fun. I’ve used it as a sport to bond with my father, family, and friends.”

A father and son stand with the father's arm around the son
“First Tee taught me integrity, perseverance, having good judgment, and the wisdom to know things aren’t always as they seem.” — Elijah Royal, First Tee Entrepreneurs Program Participant

As nice as northwest Indiana summers might be, the winters are equally brutal. One January day about five years ago, a telecommunications company employee performing maintenance at Lost Marsh Golf Course, home of the First Tee — Lake County, was confused. Snow was falling and the golf course was empty, except for a young man playing a round by himself.

“He had all his winter gear on, and I was in my golf clothes,” Royal said. “He just looked at me like something was wrong and said, ‘You’re crazy.’ I told him I couldn’t waste any time. I had to get back to it.”

Royal started with First Tee in 7th grade and quickly realized he could play in college, or at a higher level. The realization likely wouldn’t have come without the confidence instilled in him by one of his coaches, First Tee — Lake County program director Brandon White.

“He really pushed me into not giving up a lot of times,” said Royal. “If there was a drive or putt where I didn’t do well, he would just encourage me to persevere. First Tee taught me integrity, perseverance, having good judgment, and the wisdom to know things aren’t always as they seem.”

Royal excelled on his high school golf team and eventually earned a scholarship to play at Fisk University, a historically Black university in Nashville, Tennessee.

He now serves as a program coordinator for First Tee — Lake County.

“What the program has done for me, I wanted to be able to somehow be involved and help others do the same,” he said. “First Tee helped me forge relationships beyond the golf course. Why not do that for someone else?”