Grace Chen of Sunnyvale, Calif., was named a 2018 recipient of the USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award, the USGA and American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) announced Wednesday, May 9.
The USGA-AJGA Presidents' Leadership Award honors one male and one female junior golfer annually who demonstrate leadership, character and community service through their involvement with the Leadership Links program: a joint initiative founded by the USGA and AJGA in 2005 to further develop junior golfers through volunteerism.
“I’m extremely happy and honored to win this award,” Chen said. “It’s a very proud moment for me and seeing who has won the award in the past, I am very honored for myself and my charity to be recognized.”
Chen, 17, and Gerry Jones Jr. of Suffolk, Va., will be honored on June 26 in Liberty Corner, N.J., at the Polo Golf Dinner of Champions at the USGA Headquarters. Additionally, they will each receive tickets to a future U.S. Open and automatic entry into the 2018 Polo Golf Junior Classic, one of the world’s most prestigious junior golf events, at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, N.J.
About Grace Chen
In early childhood, Chen was diagnosed with leukemia, but with the help of a strong support system and the game of golf, overcame it. The challenges she faced gave her a new outlook on life and motivated her to make a difference in her community.
“Usually cancer isn’t a good thing, but I didn’t want to let it hold me back and I decided to use it to help others,” Chen said. “Cancer has shown me that I can take bad things and make them good. It is important to always find the opportunity in adversity and nobody should let life hold them down. You can take any situation you are in and make something good out of it.”
Chen did just that in 2009 when she started her own charity called the Gracious Life Foundation. The charity’s purpose is to help children affected by leukemia through the game of golf.
“I’m grateful for what has happened and made who I am today,” Chen said. “I don’t want to take anything for granted because of the second chance I have received. I’ve been on the receiving end of charity before, and I can still remember the happiness I felt when I went to Camp Okizu during the years of my treatment. I wanted to emulate that kind of response in other patients with my own charity.”
Using her charity and golf connections, Chen assembled a “Birdies for ALL” team which consists of junior golfers from her area who put on golf events and raise money for charity. Through her efforts she has raised $21,000 for the Gracious Life Foundation and an additional $11,500 to benefit the AJGA’s Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant. The money raised for the Gracious Life Foundation goes directly to constructing putting greens and bringing golf to those affected by cancer at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in California, where she was treated, the Ronald McDonald House and other local facilities.
“Through this process I have mobilized junior golfers and I have seen how much they are willing to help others and be a positive influence in their communities,” Chen said. “It has really changed my outlook on society and encouraged myself and others to do more and make a bigger impact, not just in our local communities but outside of them as well.”
In addition to the USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award, Chen received the U.S. Kids Golf Peggy Kirk Bell Award in 2012. She hopes to continue to grow her charity and “Birdies For ALL” team to impact more children affected by leukemia.
USGA-AJGA Presidents' Leadership Award – Past Recipients
Grant Fairbairn (Orinda, Fla.)
Haley Bookholdt (Columbus, N. J.)
Daniel Berlin (Chagrin Falls, Ohio)
Angelica Harris (Harvey, La.)
Nick Leibold (Littleton, Colo.)
Hannah Berman (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.)
John Hayden (Birmingham, Ala.)
Dree Fausnaugh (Maitland, Fla.)
Patrick Cover (Huntersville, N.C.)
Divya Manthena (Camarillo, Calif.)
Brandon Pierce (Covington, La.)
Cassie Wang (Lenexa, Kan.)
John Farese (Sayville, N.Y.)
Natalie Turk (Franklin, Tenn.)
Drew Johnson (Oak Ridge, N.C.)
Jacqueline Calamaro (Newtown Square, Pa.)
Zach Herr (New Hope, Pa.)
Emily Gimpel (Lafayette Hill, Pa.)
Smylie Kaufman (Birmingham, Ala.)
Kelsey Conway (Ventura, Calif.)
About Leadership Links
Since 2009, the Leadership Links program has helped more than 2,500 junior golfers make a difference in their communities by generating more than $2.2 million in charitable contributions to more than 2,000 charities and the AJGA's Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant.
Leadership Links is a program that allows the AJGA to further its mission to help develop young men and women by teaching charitable-giving skills and service-oriented practices at an early age. This program gives juniors all the tools necessary to donate their time, talent and resources to local charities and the ACE Grant. Visit www.ajga.org/ll for more.
About the USGA
The USGA celebrates, serves and advances the game of golf. Founded in 1894, we conduct many of golf’s premier professional and amateur championships, including the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. With The R&A, we govern the sport via a global set of playing, equipment and amateur status rules. Our operating jurisdiction for these governance functions is the United States, its territories and Mexico. The USGA Handicap System is utilized in more than 40 countries and our Course Rating System covers 95 percent of the world’s golf courses, enabling all golfers to play on an equitable basis. The USGA campus in Liberty Corner, New Jersey, is home to the Association’s Research and Test Center, where science and innovation are fueling a healthy and sustainable game for the future. The campus is also home to the USGA Golf Museum, where we honor the game by curating the world’s most comprehensive archive of golf artifacts. To learn more, visit usga.org.
About the AJGA
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018, the American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA provides valuable exposure for college golf scholarships, and has an annual junior membership (boys and girls, ages 12-19) of more than 6,900 members from 50 states and 60 foreign countries. Through initiatives like the Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant, a financial assistance program, and Leadership Links, a service-oriented platform that teaches juniors charitable-giving skills, the AJGA fosters the growth of golf’s next generation.
TaylorMade-adidas Golf became the AJGA’s National Sponsor in 2016 after more than 25 years of support. Rolex, which is in its fourth decade of AJGA sponsorship, became the inaugural AJGA Premier Partner in 2004. In 2017, adidas joined the AJGA as a Premier Partner, serving as the Official Apparel and Footwear of the AJGA.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. Former AJGA juniors have compiled more than 900 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours. AJGA alumni include Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods, Paula Creamer, Ariya Jutanugarn, Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Anna Nordqvist, Inbee Park and Lexi Thompson.