If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out this month’s issue of The Insider. Our Editor-in-Chief Abby Liebenthal (@AJGALiebs) did an awesome job this month to put together an issue that really tells the story of AJGA volunteers. We really couldn’t do what we do without them and in this issue you learn more about some of the incredible people that do so many volunteer jobs at our events.
With so many great stories that deserve to be shared, Abby didn’t have enough space to include them all within the pages of The Insider. That said, I’ve got three additional stories to share with you here, so take a look, and learn a little bit more about some of these awesome people.
Ben Barkey – Tournament Chairman, AJGA Stonehenge Junior Open
Ben is the men's golf coach at Warsaw Community High School in Warsaw, Indiana and has been the Tournament Chairmen for the AJGA Stonehenge Junior Open since it was created in 2011.
On how he got started with the AJGA:
I called the AJGA on a whim, which was one of the first steps in giving my players another opportunity to get better. I knew about the AJGA's quality of competition and tournaments, but had no idea about the ins and outs of being a tournament chairman, having tournament exemptions, etc. At the time the AJGA committed to hosting an event at Stonehenge, the head professional was a good friend of mine and came to me and said 'You need to do this.' It was a great feeling knowing that I could really help out and be a part of the AJGA team for this.
In the beginning, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but after seeing the results it makes it so worth it. And, the AJGA is so thankful for everyone's help from our committee and community, it makes it so great to be a part of the team.
What is your favorite aspect of being involved as a Tournament Chairman?
Getting to know all the kids from all over the area is definitely my favorite aspect of being involved. If I was just the golf coach out there watching my kids, no one would really know who I was. But as the TC, I get a lot of kids coming up and saying thank you for helping. Seeing the same kids, same parents and creating relationships, after only a week at the course, that last over the years makes it really worth. That's the really neat thing about the whole event.
Jack Heda – Tournament Chairman, Under Armour® / Steve Marino Championship
What do you find important about supporting junior golf?
I firmly believe that golf is the ultimate junior sport to teach life lessons. It’s the perfect complement to an academic education. I enjoy making the sport more accessible to juniors who otherwise might not have the opportunity.
Why did you get involved with the AJGA?
I noted that South Florida did not have an AJGA tournament, despite being such a great golf community. I contacted the regional director and offered to be a liaison to facilitate my home course, Weston Hills Country Club as a host. Both the AJGA and Weston Hills were receptive for this perfect marriage.
Do you have any advice for people who want to help in their communities?
Just do it! Get out there are plenty of opportunities. Nothing is greater than giving back.
Lastly, Morgan Seeley, who works closely with our Development Office and our Leadership Links campaign as a Partnership Coordinator, wrote a great article about one of our juniors, Jens Verhey, and his work with Leadership Links. After all, not only do we have great volunteers that help us at our events, our juniors are also great volunteers themselves.
Golfing and giving
For junior golfer Jens Verhey, being a member of the AJGA is benefiting both his golfing and giving skills. Working with the AJGA Leadership Links program, Verhey has raised more than $1,500 for CureSearch for Children’s Cancer in honor of his friend and golfing partner Anthony Decker.
Decker has been battling reoccurring retinoblastoma in his eye for the past couple of years and is just beginning to see improvement. Verhey knows that with his friend’s recent improvement there would be nothing better than a good round of golf to keep his spirits up.
“I want to get him back on the golf course again,” Verhey said. “It is the least I could do because he is such a nice, good kid and stays so positive. I am going to keep going with it and raise as much money as possible."
Wanting to do more for his friend, Verhey looked into the Leadership Links program which is designed to encourage juniors to give back by giving them all the tools to donate their time, talent and resources to charitable giving.
"I was on the AJGA Leadership Links website a lot and it looked like a good program to get involved in,” Verhey said. “I have always felt that community service was a great thing to be a part of."
Once he found out more information and decided to dedicate his work in honor of Decker, he jumped right into raising money.
"I started out talking to a lot of my dad’s coworkers,” Verhey said. “They were all really supportive and then I decided to put it on Facebook, the more people that I can reach in the future the better, so I am going to keep going."
As Verhey continues to work towards helping his friend, he hopes that juniors will take advantage of programs like AJGA’s Leadership Links.
"It is really good to build a good foundation as a kid and not get so hung up on yourself about everyday life,” Verhey said. “I think we should all broaden our horizons and think about other people, because if you are out on the golf course having a good time playing AJGA golf, you are part of a lucky group. There are a lot of people that can use that help to raise money. I think it is a good thing to do to realize how lucky you are."
If you didn’t already realize it, I’m sure you can see now that the AJGA is full of great people that, in addition to their love of and dedication to the game of golf, have a heart for the people and communities around them.
Quick shout out to Stephanie (@AJGADittmer) and our awesome intern Courtney Keppen for their help with the first two interviews on today's post.
Do you have a great volunteer story from an AJGA event? Do you volunteer in your local community? I’d love to hear your stories, so make sure you connect with me in the comments section or on Twitter -- @AJGAWitman.
Until next time –