It's funny how one thing leads to another.
I met Peter Sliwinski at the Jack Newton Junior Golf 30th anniversary awards night. He had been accepting the "Junior Club of the Year" award, and subsequently invited me to Shelly Beach Golf Club to discuss what Fairways is doing, in particular our Bolivian program.
When I arrived, I marvelled at the view. Shelly Beach is a public course overlooking the ocean. My only problem... I was here to have a meeting, not to tee it up!
I met with Peter, who is Shelly Beach's Captain, General Manager, Scott Hamilton, and Director of Golf, Jason Hart.
I recounted my golf story. Two and a half years, ten countries, nearly 100 courses, and now CEO of a nonprofit which sponsors underprivileged junior golfers worldwide. I chatted about our cadets in Canada, India, Nepal and how a chance meeting caused the Bolivian program to get started.
I was in Calgary for the LPGA Canadian Women's Open, and my friend at St. Andrews, Gordon Moir, connected me with Superintendent Kerry Watkins, at Glencoe Country Club. While in the pro shop, I got to talking with Yvonne Cita, who said she had a brother in Bolivia, Edwin Fernandez, who was trying to set up a golf program for disadvantaged youth.
Yvonne connected me with Edwin and our Bolivian program was born. Quite the woven tapestry!
Back at Shelly Beach, we had a great meeting discussing how to help more juniors get a fairway under their feet.The team asked for Fairways to provide a proposal and costs for our Bolivian project, and will also be hosting a fundraiser as part of our Dawn 2 Dusk Golf Challenge, on the 21st of June, 2017.
Immediately following my meeting at Shelly Beach, I headed to Long Reef Golf Club where I was meeting with Lachy and James Gribble from Empower Golf. They were running their last clinic for the year and having an end-of-year get together following the session.
I interviewed James and have written about Empower in more detail in another blog post. I also met the Long Reef President, David Costello, and the volunteer golfers who helped with the clinic, Pete, Lynne, and Roger. The disabled golfers were Jacqui, Chester, Cathy and Prue. Prue made me laugh when we were chatting about golf and the enjoyment of getting a good whack on a ball.
It was a wonderful afternoon and I was very happy to have been invited to join the Empower crew. We talked about growing the game and making it accessible for disabled golfers all over the world.
Next I was off up into the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and heading to Wentworth Falls Country Club. I took Moses with me, a new friend who I worked with on a film shoot in 2015 and who had asked me if I was a golfer when he saw the Mizuno hat I was wearing. At Wentworth Falls, I met with the Director of Golf, Rob Kennedy, and Magda who is one of the members. Rob is an old friend of mine and I loved seeing his new office as he had only been there since September, 2016.
The weather was poor, very very foggy and wet, but we didn’t hesitate to head out and tee it up. I filled Rob in on Fairways as he has been watching the development via Facebook. He had been quite impressed with what we've achieved to-date, but not surprised. Wentworth Falls too, will be joining in the Dawn 2 Dusk Golf Challenge. The golf was soggy, but lots of fun (maybe because Magda and I won the match play) and I was very happy to catch up with Rob again.
The next day and I was off to the Hunter Valley, which is two hours north of Sydney and famous wine country. My destination was The Vintage Golf Club, to have a golf chat and meeting with the Director of of Golf, Matt Farley, and the Director of Instruction, golf professional Richard "Dickie" Mercer.
Very pleasingly, Matt advised The Vintage would join us in some capacity for the Dawn 2 Dusk Golf Challenge, and Dickie said he would get us a signed flag to auction off to help us raise money.
They loved what we are doing at Fairways, but were amazed that I was paying for much of it myself as we wait for sponsorship revenue to increase. Both men urged me to keep my head above water, financially, and so far I am just managing to do that, working odd jobs in-between Fairways tasks.
If you would like to help us, please give the gift of golf to an underprivileged junior. Sponsorship costs as little as $5 per month.
Now, eight months after I had the idea for Fairways, we have sponsored 16 juniors, are heading to Bolivia to help establish a junior program there, and it looks like we will be partners in a junior program rolling out across Canada.
I look forward to what 2017 brings.