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Conway & Kaufman Honored for Exemplary Volunteerism
Smylie Kaufman of Birmingham, Ala., and Kelsey Conway of Ventura, Calif., received the 2008 Presidents' Youth Leadership Award Thursday at the Rolex Tournament of Champions at Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Ind. The award was created to recognize one boy and one girl American Junior Golf Association member who demonstrate leadership, character and community service through their involvement with the USGA-AJGA Youth Leadership Club - a joint initiative founded in 2006 to further develop junior golfers through volunteerism.
"This year's recipients demonstrate the exact qualities we envisioned when our two Associations created this initiative," AJGA Board President Gayle Champagne said. "In its short history, the USGA-AJGA Youth Leadership Club continues to support and motivate junior golfers from around the world to give back to their communities."
"The exemplary commitment to service demonstrated by Kelsey and Smylie stands out among their peers," said USGA President Jim Vernon. "Each invested their time and energy to support important causes. The USGA is proud to honor their hard work and dedication that sets a standard to which other junior golfers can aspire to reach in their own communities."
Conway has been an avid golfer since her father introduced her to the sport at age eight. Since then, Conway has been recognized both as a talented player and as a philanthropist. She has been actively involved with the Ventura County Special Olympics, The First Tee of Ventura Country, Ventura County Medical Center and the National Charity League. Her efforts to better the world through volunteerism have spread throughout her circle of friends and her community. Conway's involvement with the Special Olympics has caused an increase in the organization's volunteer rate because of her positive attitude and her outreach to the community.
"The work I've done and the people I've worked with teach me important life skills, like patience and perseverance," Conway said Thursday. "I want others to get the same feeling of satisfaction that I get - the sense that you made a difference in someone's life."
Kaufman earned the award for creating Kids vs. Cancer, a fundraising charity that assists the pediatric cancer unit at the Children's Hospital of Alabama. In 2006, Kaufman's neighborhood was disheartened as four children under the age of seven had been diagnosed with cancer over the past few years. Two have passed away and two are still fighting. Seeing children battle cancer fueled Smylie and his brother Luckie to generate the Kids vs. Cancer campaign.
It began simply, with the Kaufmans staging a 100-hole golf marathon and raising $18,000 in 2006. The brothers have since recruited more junior golfers across the state to get involved in the effort and Kids vs. Cancer has netted more than $51,000 for cancer research. "It's great to see the program grow throughout Alabama," Kaufman said. "In some of my AJGA events this year, I've been able to meet players from all over the country willing to grow the program nationally, which is the next step. There's no doubt that this charity is helping both the patients and their parents," he continued. "Sometimes it's just a look, but you can tell with something that simple that you've made a difference."
As recipients of this honor, Conway and Kaufman will each receive four tickets to a U.S. Open of their choice and access to the USGA hospitality tent during the championship. They'll also receive an invitation to play in the 2008 Rolex Tournament of Champions - the AJGA's longest-running tournament and one of the nation's most prestigious junior golf events.