First Tee alumnus Kelly Allen is making an impact as a collegiate coach 

Golf has always been part of Kelly Allen’s life. “I’ve had a club in my hand since I was 2. I still have that little cut down 2 iron somewhere,” he said. 

Kelly joined First Tee – North Florida at 7 years old, and at 12, he decided to give up football and baseball to focus on golf. His choice coincided with the 2005 Masters, when Tiger Woods famously chipped in from the rough on 16 before going on to win in a playoff. Kelly remembers going crazy in his living room.  

“It was just super exciting what he was doing for the game, and I wanted a piece of it,” he said. 

As a teenager, Kelly traveled to a variety of First Tee national opportunities and earned the chance to play twice at the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach, which became his favorite golf course.  

“I made a bunch of friends across the country through First Tee,” he said. “I had unforgettable experiences and received timeless benefits. First Tee shows you that golf is much more than swinging a club and hitting a ball. It’s networking, seeing the world and building character.” 

Kelly is a Jacksonville, Florida, native and began his college career at Johnson & Wales before transferring to Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. The decision was largely driven by golf, but ultimately, Kelly said he’s glad he experienced attending an HBCU.  

“Being a part of a team culture, especially in golf, it’s very unique because unless you’re playing for a Ryder Cup or something like that, you don’t get that very often,” he said. “I enjoyed the comradery and the bond with my teammates. That whole idea of us against the world was the best part of it.” His team won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship in 2015. Kelly was also crowned the overall champion. 

Kelly has played golf across the country, but Brentwood Golf Course in Jacksonville is where he learned the game and still the place he calls home. The facility played an important role in the city’s civil rights history, when a group of Black golfers showed up to play there on a Tuesday. At the time, Black golfers were only allowed to play Brentwood on Mondays. They launched a legal battle that ultimately led to the desegregation of public recreation facilities in the area. 

Kelly was working at Brentwood when he learned about an exciting new opportunity. With support from THE PLAYERS, Edward Waters College, the oldest HBCU in Florida, was launching a women’s golf team and needed a coach.   

“It just made so much sense to pursue because Edward Waters is in the middle of the neighborhood where I grew up,” Kelly said. “Growing up I seen a lot of life get lost to the streets. I see this program as a great way to serve my community put some life back into it.” 

Kelly is passionate about building a winning culture at Edward Waters, and he’s learned a lot about coaching. “I realized quickly that this job isn’t just about golf. It’s about leading and nurturing young women” he said. “Each girl is facing her own unique set of challenges on and off the course. As a coach, you have to be able to help them navigate through it.  Some are away from home and their families for the first time. The coach is their advocate while they are here on campus.” 

Not only does Kelly coach his players on the course, but he also manages recruiting, tournament registrations, ordering uniforms, booking travel, planning practice schedules, player development and more. “It has been very challenging but that’s the reason I love it,” he said. “It’ll be that much more satisfying when we reach our goals.” 

In addition to his busy schedule as a coach, Kelly has his own brand called Golf By Kelly, which is all about bringing eccentric style to golf.