I am on my way to Bolivia, to help Edwin Fernandez with his junior golf program.
Once again, Gordon Moir, Director of Greenkeeping at St. Andrews, has played a part in the Fairways story. I was in Calgary in August 2016 for the CP Canadian Women's Open, so Gordon sent an introduction to his friend, Kerry Watkins, the Superintendent at Glencoe Golf and Country Club.
While visiting Glencoe, I was chatting to the pro shop staff, when one of them, Yvonne Cita, asked me about Fairways. She asked if she could put Edwin Fernandez, her brother, in touch with me. Yvonne said he was teaching some underprivileged juniors how to golf at El Dorado Golf Club, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
I awoke the next morning to a message from Edwin on Facebook. I learned he used to work for the UN as a military peacekeeper in Africa, and on his return to Bolivia, he joined the Ghost River Rediscovery, a charity which works with troubled youth. In 2008, Edwin attended a GRR global conference in Canada and was introduced to golf. Like me, he fell in love with it immediately.
Edwin returned home determined to continue playing and to become a member at a course. In Bolivia, golf is almost exclusively the domain of the rich. He worked very hard to achieve his dream and became inspired to pass on his love for the game to the kids he worked with. Edwin told me,
“I wanted to give a change with golf practice. Giving some values that are connected to this wonderful game.”
How could I not do everything I could to help?
Three days later we had decided I would spend two months in Bolivia helping Edwin with his program.
I returned home to Prince Edward Island and spoke with my golf club, Brudenell River - part of PEI’s Finest Golf, and they donated 250 used range balls to send to Santa Cruz. Edwin and his cadets had no equipment. Edwin had been teaching the kids with his own clubs and they were using balls lost by other golfers in hazards. Snell Golf Canada were also kind enough to donate two dozen new balls to the program.
So a package with close to 275 balls weighs 17 kilograms (37 pounds) and the quotes for shipping were huge. I contacted DHL, UPS and Fedex and they all wanted between $500-$1000 Canadian dollars (USD $375-$750) to ship the balls. My last stop was Canada Post where they estimated it would be approximately $300 via sea mail.
I had already told Edwin about the balls, but knew he would understand if I couldn’t ship them this time. He knew I was waitressing to help pay for the costs of Fairways while we wait for our donation revenue to grow. $300 was still more than I had, as I'd spent the last of my money to travel to India to help juniors there, so I just couldn't do it.
It's funny how things turn out well sometimes. I was lamenting about the balls with a new golf friend, Paul Koski, who I'd met at the CP Canadian Women’s Open. I told him it was unfortunate, but the kids in Bolivia would have to wait.
I logged-in to Facebook to give Edwin the bad news, and at that very moment I received a notification from our donations page to say Paul had donated the $300 needed to ship the balls! I contacted him immediately and he said, “Send those balls to Bolivia!” which is exactly what I did.
Sea mail is obviously the long way, but only a few weeks ago, I received messages and photos from Edwin and his boys as they cracked the top of the carton. How good is that?!
The fantastic folk at Glencoe CC have since gotten in on the act, by donating ten sets of clubs for the Bolivian children. Similar to the story with the balls, costs for shipping are extremely high, well beyond Fairways' current capabilities, so we need to raise money to get them there.
Can you help us ship the clubs to Bolivia? If so, please become a sponsor or share this post with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.
I'll be landing in Santa Cruz very soon and it would be great to give Edwin and the golfing kids some more good news.
No matter what happens, golf has taken me, and now Fairways too, on one amazing journey. It's not over yet, either...