Featured Golf News
Two Earn USGA-AJGA Presidents' Leadership Awards
Brandon Pierce of Covington, La., and Cassie Wang of Lenexa, Kan., are the new recipients of the 2012 Presidents' Leadership Award, the United States Golf Association and American Junior Golf Association announced Thursday.
The Presidents' Leadership Award was created to recognize one boy and one girl junior golfer who demonstrate leadership, character and community service through their involvement with the Leadership Links program - a joint initiative founded by the USGA and AJGA in 2005 to further develop junior golfers through volunteerism.
Pierce and Wang will be honored and formally presented the award during the Rolex Dinner of Champions, June 28, in Alpharetta, Ga., during the Rolex Tournament of Champions. Additionally, they will each receive four tickets to a U.S. Open in a year of his/her choice, access to the USGA hospitality tent during the U.S. Open, and an automatic entry into the 2012 Rolex Tournament of Champions.
In 2010, Pierce founded Brandon's Birdies, a program to raise money for underprivileged children in his local community. Donors pledge money for every birdie he makes during his state, regional and national tournaments. Since its inception, Pierce has raised more than $35,000 for local charities in the New Orleans area.
"When a birdie goes into the hole, I always give a little fist pump," Pierce said. "But when I take the ball out of the hole, I flash a smile at my mother, knowing that the money raised will help other young people."
Pierce, 17, was inspired as a young golfer on the Fore!Kids Foundation Junior Tour. Since age nine, Pierce has devoted his time each year as a volunteer at the PGA Tour Zurich Classic of New Orleans, an annual event hosted by Fore!Kids Foundation that makes a major charitable impact on the city of New Orleans.
"The Fore!Kids Foundation taught me values, courtesy, sportsmanship and honesty," Pierce said. "They helped me grow into the person I am today and I really feel I need to give something back to them."
The Fore!Kids Foundation is one of several beneficiaries of Brandon's Birdies. Others include the Kelly Gibson Foundation, CP3 Foundation, St. Michael's Special School, Hope House - Children's Advocacy Center and the AJGA Foundation. In 2011, Pierce raised $2,000 for the AJGA ACE Grant program, which was accompanied by a $1,000 donation from the USGA.
This year, Pierce is raising money for Playing Fore their Future, a Leadership Links program supported by the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation and benefiting CureSearch for Children's Cancer. Pierce has currently raised the second-highest amount for the program. The eight juniors who raise the most are slated to receive an award from Jack Nicklaus during the Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet in November.
As for the future of Brandon's Birdies, Pierce has increased his initial fundraising goal from $40,000, a mark he is already set to pass, to $50,000 raised by the time he graduates high school. He hopes his philanthropic efforts will inspire other young golfers.
"I have been extremely blessed in my life being able to pursue my dreams," Pierce said. "I am hopeful that by giving back to children's charities and exemplifying a caring, sharing and positive attitude, it will motivate others to chase their dreams and give back to their communities."
Rather than simply feeling fortunate that her community had been spared from damaging tornadoes, Cassie Wang took action. Her fundraisers have helped families in Joplin, Mo., and spurred the founding of a nonprofit that reaches children in China, and it all started with a three-hour car ride last year.
Wang drove through Joplin on her way to an AJGA event in 2011 and witnessed the aftermath of the tornadoes that ravaged the town. From that point forward, she focused her humanitarian efforts on rebuilding the Joplin community, 141 miles from her hometown of Lenexa, Kan.
"After we drove through Joplin, and even while I was playing the tournament, I couldn't stop thinking about how to help them," said Wang, who got involved with Leadership Links' Birdies for Charity Program and raised nearly $1,000 for Joplin by the end of the summer of 2011.
Her involvement with Birdies for Charity was a catalyst for her continued volunteerism and service. Through her involvement in the Kansas City Chinese American Association, Wang created the Youth Hope Fund, which is comprised of students in the Kansas City area that fundraise to help feed, clothe and educate children in need around the world.
"Volunteering has inspired me to motivate others," Wang said. And she has done just that. Since creating the Youth Hope Fund in October 2011, 20 young volunteers have joined the organization. Through bake sales, car washes, benefit luncheons, donations and raffles, the Youth Hope Fund has raised more than $6,000 and provided scholarships for 16 children in China.
Wang's next venture incorporated both Joplin and the Youth Hope Fund. Volunteers from the Youth Hope Fund traveled to Joplin for a work day on May 26th, and spent eight hours helping rebuild the area.
Her volunteer work and involvement with the community are not the only areas in which Wang shines. She is involved at Olathe Northwest High School, where she maintains a 4.4 grade point average, is the vice president of student council, serves on the Principal's Advisory Board, and is a member a mentoring program for underclassmen.
Additionally, Wang finished fourth at the state of Kansas high school golf meet and notched five top-10 finishes in AJGA tournaments since 2010. "It is a challenge to do it all. I don't always get a full night's sleep, but it is rewarding and worth it," Wang said.
Past Recipients USGA-AJGA Presidents' Leadership Award
2012 Brandon Pierce (Covington, La.)
Cassie Wang (Lenexa, Kan.)
2011 John Farese (Sayville, N.Y.)
Natalie Turk (Franklin, Tenn.)
2010 Drew Johnson (Oak Ridge, N.C.)
Jacqueline Calamaro (Newtown Square, Pa.)
2009 Zach Herr (New Hope, Pa.)
Emily Gimpel (Lafayette Hill, Pa.)
2008 Smylie Kaufman (Birmingham, Ala.)
Kelsey Conway (Ventura, Calif.)
2007 Joseph Suarez (Richmond, Va.)
Angela Villela (Sylmar, Calif.)
2006 Adam Michel (Orinda, Calif.)
Katrina Delen-Briones (San Francisco, Calif.)
The above report is courtesy of the USGA (www.usga.org) and the AJGA (www.ajga.org).