2010 USGA-AJGA Presidents' Leadership Award Honorable Mentions

Junior golfers making a difference

The recipients of the 2010 USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award will be revealed Thursday, but they are just two of many junior golfers making a difference in their communities through acts of service. Smith Brinker of Cincinnati, John Farese of Sayville, N.Y., and Ashley Armstrong of Flossmoor, Ill., are receiving honorable mention recognition for their incredible volunteerism. These are their stories:

After Cancer Scare, Brinker Springs into Action

Smith Brinker is lucky. A golf-ball sized lump in his chest formed in 2008, giving him the scare of his life. The doctors feared cancer and removed the mass. Fully expecting the worst, it turned out Brinker’s tumor was benign. No cancer.

Not content to just move on, Brinker organized a cancer fundraiser among fellow high school golfers in Ohio. The Cincinnati resident spent lunch hours sending emails and updating his blog, gathering support and coordinating tasks. His efforts paid off big time. In two years, nearly $80,000 has been raised for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, assisting doctors with pediatric cancer research.

“I found myself raving about Smith’s execution and attention to detail in the lunch room at work,” said Anna Luther, of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “And wishing that every committee I work with and every event I help to coordinate could have someone with Smith’s character leading it.”

Farese Helps Poor Neighborhoods Play Ball

John Farese inherited his love of sports from his grandfather. But Farese doesn’t just play sports, he ensures that others around him have the opportunity to participate, as well.

Two significant events occurred when Farese was playing little-league baseball in the eighth grade, leading him to form “Operation Sports Equipment.” First, he learned that a baseball league near his hometown of Sayville, N.Y., was considering shutting down because of a lack of equipment. At the same time, Farese’s league was about to dispose of its equipment to purchase new items. Farese put two and two together and organized a donation program that kept the league afloat.

“Operation Sports Equipment” has grown to receive more donations from affluent leagues. After refurbishing the assortment of gloves, helmets, and catcher’s equipment, while gathering brand new uniforms, it is donated to various needy leagues around Queens, N.Y.

While Farese’s love of sports came from his grandfather, his love of charitable giving was inspired by his father. Ten years ago, his dad was part of a group that started “Jocelyn’s Operation Holiday Spirit” to provide Christmas gifts for less-fortunate children, and Farese has also donated time to that cause.

“He is a very special young man,” said Joseph Raab, executive director of Jocelyn’s Operation Holiday Spirit. “He knows what the power of one is.”

Junior Golf in Illinois Benefits from Armstrong

Ashley Armstrong rarely misses an opportunity to serve. Through her golf activities, those opportunities come frequently. Armstrong, of Flossmoor, Ill., has become a go-to person for the Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois.

Her involvement began when the Illinois Junior Golf Association selected her to be a standard bearer at the 2009 Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms. Not only did Armstrong accept, but she became a mentor to other standard bearers, sharing her golf knowledge and experience with the kids around her.

Armstrong has continued her contributions to the Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois, volunteering at events where she teaches young golfers the fundamentals of golf, along with fitness and nutrition. Armstrong is continuing her support of the program in 2010 by raising funds through the Leadership Links program conducted by the AJGA, with matching funds being granted by the USGA.

“We hope that Ashley’s commitment to giving back challenges other junior golfers to use the skills and values that they have learned through the game for the good of others,” wrote Holly Alcala and Rachel Irving in a joint letter to the USGA and AJGA Award selection committee.

Armstrong’s service extends beyond golf, as she has volunteered for two Lions Club fundraisers, and given her time to local family shelters and community centers, serving meals, assisting kids with homework and joining them for play time.