A few months ago I contacted Alison White at the R&A to discuss golf in Bolivia. She gave me the email address of Jhonny Ribera, the Gerente General of the Federación Boliviana De Golf. I emailed him, but received no reply.
Once I arrived in the country, I followed up my email to Jhonny, again with no luck, as this time my email bounced back.
Edwin and I had plans to visit the Federación earlier in my Bolivian stay, but the day we planned to go, the weather was horrendous and traffic woeful. So we put it off until the next Thursday.
Thursday arrived and in the morning Edwin received an email about a junior golf tournament at Las Palmas that was starting the next day. Thursday was the practice round and while very late notice, we were hoping to get a couple of our juniors in at the last minute.
At 11 AM we arrived at the Federación's address, knocked and waited. There was no answer, so I checked the website and confirmed we had the right address. Edwin tried phoning the number on the website which wasn't working either. Disappointed, we decided to go to Las Palmas and see if they were there.
On arrival we asked a pro that Edwin knew and he pointed out Nelson Saucedo, an employee who works for the Federación. We asked if we could sit and have a meeting with him and he said yes.
We explained what Fairways had been doing in Bolivia for the last few weeks, and asked if we could enter a couple of juniors in the tournament. Nelson said he would find out. I mentioned I'd emailed Jhonny without response and he asked me to forward my email to another address. He said it would go to the President, Vice President, Secretary and himself. I did so immediately.
We also told Nelson that I'd been contacted by Caddie Magazine, and that they wanted to write an article about golf in Bolivia and what Fairways is doing here. Nelson said that Alberto Landivar, the President of the Federación, would want to have a meeting with me, and he took my number. He said would call about a possible meeting and that he would confirm if the juniors could play.
Edwin and I left all smiles, and felt that our voices had been heard. Nothing like just turning up sometimes!
30 minutes later, Nelson phoned and said Alberto wanted to meet us at 6 PM that night. He also confirmed the two kids we wanted in the tournament, Elias and Ale, could play the next day. He said they would represent the Federación and would have sponsored places in the tournament. We were delighted.
Due to Bolivian traffic, Edwin and I arrived a little late for our meeting with Alberto, but luckily, Alberto was running late too. We sat down at 6:30 PM, and two hours later we parted company, all very happy.
Alberto thanked me for my determination to see the Federación. He was very impressed that a complete stranger would come to his country and help children they have never met. The Federación will also help us to ship the donated clubs we have in Calgary to Bolivia, and in the interim will provide us some equipment to help us continue our work.
Additionally, Alberto wants us to feature in the next Golf Bolivia magazine, plus he wants the Federación to host a fundraiser for Fairways. He plans for it to become an annual event with the proceeds going to the underprivileged junior programs in Bolivia. Amazing!
So it looks like I will be back here before the end of the year, and that I have another event on my annual golf calendar. It will be well worth continuing with my Spanish lessons.
We asked Alberto if we could enter one more junior in Sunday's tournament. That wasn't a problem and Alberto wants to meet again at the tournament so he can introduce me to the President at Las Palmas. He wants to arrange a day for us to golf together.
Perseverance does pay off, and I look forward to working with the Federación to make golf accessible to everyone in Bolivia.
If you want to help us, all you need to do is share our story and raise awareness. Thank you.