Juniors making a difference on and off the course


The recipients of the 2011 USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award will be revealed Tuesday, May 24. The boy and girl being honored are two examples of the great many junior golfers making a difference in their communities through acts of service. Ashley Armstrong of Flossmoor, Ill., Courtney Dow of Frisco, Texas, Jessica Kittelberger of Raleigh, N.C., Brandon Pierce of Covington, La., and Jacob Fair of Monett, Mo., are deserving of honorable mention recognition for their incredible volunteerism. These are their stories:

Armstrong’s Birdies give Illinois Kids birdie opportunities of their own

When a professional golfer makes a birdie, there’s a good chance it will increase his or her paycheck. When a junior golfer makes a birdie, it may mean being one step closer to a college golf scholarship. It means even more than that for Ashley Armstrong. In 2010, when Armstrong made a birdie, it meant that the Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois would receive $100.

Luckily for the Kids Golf Foundation, those birdies came frequently, and over the course of the season, Armstrong racked up $5,000 in pledges. The funds were split between the Kids Golf Foundation and the AJGA Foundation, and with the USGA’s match of Armstrong’s contribution to the Kids Golf Foundation, her total monies raised topped out at $7,500.

“As I grow older, I want to use my experiences in golf to help out kids from all walks of life, especially those who were not given the same opportunities as me,” Armstrong said. “I have turned that dream into a reality by raising funds for the Birdies for Charity program.”

In 2011, Armstrong is once again participating in Birdies for Charity through the AJGA’s Leadership Links program. Her goal is to secure more donations and, not surprisingly, make more birdies than the past year.

Dow is Up: 100 hours, 100 golf holes, $1200

Courtney Dow plays a lot of golf, but normally, she doesn’t play 100 holes in a single day. She reserves that kind of golf for special occasions, and raising money for the The First Tee of Dallas falls squarely into that category.

“It is very important for the future of the game that golf be accessible to all people, not just those that can afford it,” Dow explained in her application packet. “Knowing that a few hours from me can help one of those kids realize a dream of being a professional golfer is very special.”

Dow participated in the 100 Hole Golf Marathon and worked to secure donors and collect funds. Between playing 100 holes of golf and contacting potential contributors, she spent 100 hours on the project. Her work paid off handsomely, as she was able to donate more than $1,200 to The First Tee of Dallas.

The Texan didn’t stop there. She also formed a team to participate in the KidSwing-McKinney Golf Tournament that benefitted the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. With an eye on fundraising, she and her teammates raised in excess of $500 for the hospital.

Kittelberger becomes more than a patient for UNC Children’s Hospital

Jessica Kittelberger has been a patient at UNC Children’s Hospital for eight years, being treated for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Now, the Raleigh native is using her golf skills to give back to the hospital that gave her so much by organizing a charity golf tournament, currently in its second year.

Kittelberger has worked with all facets of organizing the event, which she named Golf for Promise. From finding a golf course to soliciting sponsors and securing players, she does it all. In its inaugural year, Golf for Promise raised $7,772 and her goal for 2011 is $10,000.

“The hospital often becomes more than a place for treatment; it becomes a second home,” Kittelberger wrote in her application essay. “With the money I raised and will continue to raise, I hope to establish a home-away-from-home at the hospital for kids of all ages.”

For Kittelberger, golf is not just a sport, it has become a way to give back to her community and further strengthen their love for the game.

Pierce uses golf skills to benefit local community

Brandon Pierce has been volunteering his time to worthy charities for years now, and he’s been playing golf even longer. It didn’t take long for the Louisiana native to find a way to comingle the two. Pierce founded a fundraising program called “Brandon’s Birdies,” that allows him to secure pledges for each birdie he makes during competition.

By joining up with the Leadership Links program, Pierce was able to set his fundraising sights high, committing to support three charities: the AJGA’s ACE Grant, Fore!Kids Foundation, and CP3. In his first year of fundraising, Pierce collected $17, 795.

“As this idea [Brandon’s Birdies] came together, so did my golf game,” Pierce said. “Instead of just making a birdie for the scorecard, I was now sinking a putt worth $200 towards charities for underprivileged children in my area.”

Brandon chose two local charities that he wanted to help out. The Fore!Kids Foundation, a New Orleans-based 501(c)(3) corporation, operates to raise money for children’s charities through golf-related events. The second charity, CP3, was founded by New Orlean’s Hornet Chris Paul, with the goal of providing food and toys to needy families.

Brother provides inspiration for Fair’s fundraising

Eleven years ago, Jacob Fair’s life was sent into a tailspin. His brother Isaac was diagnosed with leukemia, and thus the days of their normal childhood were put on hold. While Isaac fought cancer tooth and nail through chemotherapy and a myriad of other treatments, Jacob watched his brother’s body grow weak, but his spirit grow stronger, and eventually the cancer went into remission.

Now 14, Isaac has been cancer free for six years. Seeing first-hand the way cancer can affect a family, Jacob set out to help the facility that helped his brother. With the assistance of the Leadership Links Birdies for Charity program, Jacob has raised over $2,200 for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

“Very few people can say they have had a life-altering experience by the age of 17, but I can,” Fair said. “Isaac’s fight to beat cancer, with the help of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is why I chose to give back to the hospital that saved my brother’s life.”

Through this struggle, Fair has discovered that it’s about more than just giving back. He has learned about strength of character and the importance of putting things into perspective. No matter how bad of a day he has on the golf course, Fair knows that it can never compare to his brother’s struggle. Thankfully, Fair has now found a way to make a good day on the golf course a good day for other children fighting the battle of their life.