At a recently renovated Oakmont Country Club layout, on a warm early-April morning, 24 young golfers convened for a day of experiences. It was the first time for nearly all of them entering the classic 1922 Glendale club, but would not be the last time it would have an impression on them.
The occasion was the third SCGA Foundation G.A.M.E. Day, a program that brings together private country club members and Foundation-affiliated junior golfers for the acronym of the program name: Golf, Awareness, Mentoring and Education. Hailing from The First Tee of Pasadena, The First Tee of South Los Angeles and the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, the attendees earned their way into the special day. Ages 8 to 17 years old, juniors were selected by criteria including academic grade point average, participation and volunteer work with their junior golf organization, and membership in the SCGA Foundation Youth on Course program.
“I couldn’t play golf without the support of the SCGA Foundation,” said Jose Valdez, a Tiger Woods Learning Center volunteer, student tutor and past SCGA Scholarship recipient during an audience address over breakfast. “Programs like Youth on Course have given my family and I, and other kids in this room, access we wouldn’t normally get, and we’re extremely grateful for that.”
Valdez later teed off in a group that included SCGA Board and Oakmont CC member Al Frank, former San Francisco 49ers Superbowl champion and G.A.M.E. Days Committee member Dwight Hicks, The First Tee of South Los Angeles junior Bakari Bolden, and Oakmont member Ed White. Together, the fivesome helped each other read putts, laughed and joked about misfires, and also answered a series of questions that greeted them on every other hole. Questions included: When did you start playing golf and what role has it played in your life? How has golf helped you in your life, at school, in your career or at your business? Who do you have a lot of respect for and why?
The day started out with a bang as G.A.M.E. Days Committee member Caroll Maltzman aced her first hole of the day, the par-3 11th. “I didn’t even see it go in, but our group was excited, saying it was in the hole,” Maltzman said with a smile. “It’s my first hole-in-one, what a great memory!”
Oakmont members Dave and Linda Pearson paired with The First Tee of Pasadena’s Cameron Low and Tiger Woods Learning Center’s Ysabel Tran for their round. The group laughed their way through hole one and Tran, intensely watching Linda Peterson’s putt just lip out, squealed when it did. “Ooh, so close!” Tran laughed. “These greens are fast!”
Past G.A.M.E. Days have been held at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks and Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights, and the program only continues to build in popularity as clubs catch wind of the opportunity to impact the lives of juniors. Future sites include Lakeside Golf Club and Bel-Air Country Club.
“You don’t realize how much the impact this program, and the SCGA Foundation, has on these kids, and how much opportunities like this change them,” says Theresa Thornton, The First Tee of South Los Angeles volunteer and sister of junior golfer Trey Woods III, a G.A.M.E. Days participant featured in the March/April issue of FORE Magazine. “I see how very much it helped my brother Trey, and how appreciative the parents of these kids are. It’s very inspiring.”