SUGAR GROVE, IL – On a crisp October day, nine female Kids Golf Foundation Program Participants entered the gates of Rich Harvest Farms filled with anticipation for the day ahead. Many of them not knowing what the day would have in store, they were cautiously optimistic about what they were about to do.
Every fall since 2004, female youth golfers have been coming to the private club in Sugar Grove for Thinking Outside the Tee Box. The one-day event, held on October 8, provides Kids Golf Foundation Program Participants from across the state with a unique one-on-one mentoring experience with area established Business Professionals to provide them with an opportunity for personal growth and career enhancement.
“[My business professional and I] had almost everything in common,” said Khadijah, a Program Participant. “We are both into art. I love comics and she loves abstract art. We talked about a lot of different things out on the course, my life, her career, and my hope to receive a golf scholarship one day. We also laughed a lot.”
The Program Participants for the event are chosen through a nomination and selection process. Kids Golf Foundation Site Coordinators from around the state nominate golfers in their programs that demonstrate good character for this unique opportunity and the Foundation then picks the top applicants to participate.
The day began with the Business Professionals and Program Participants meeting for the first time, as the pairings were kept secret until that day. After meeting, one of the Business Professionals, Kim Kester, addressed the group. Kester, the head Women’s Golf Coach at Northern Illinois University, shared her background and how golf has impacted her life. She shared a personal story about things she’s overcome in her life on her path to becoming a successful golf coach.
“Don’t dwell on what people say about you. Find what you’re passionate about, and stick to it,” said Kester.
Motivated by the words of Kester, the groups headed out to the range to warm up at activity stations (full swing, chipping, putting, and networking) designed to highlight the connection between golf skills and life skills. Led by Student Athletes from Aurora University and Northern Illinois University, the stations were a great time for the Business Professionals and their Program Participants to learn more about one another as well as learn from each other.
After completing the stations, each group then headed to the links for a nine-hole scramble. The playing groups were made up of two Business Professionals, two Program Participants, and one Student Athlete, which added another golf perspective to their round.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the young girls and the Business Professionals to have the opportunity to play this high level of a course,” said Mya Groza, a Business Professional. “The interactions were phenomenal! We had a lot of laughs, a lot of smiles, and a few ‘oops’ along the way. I think the cool thing about it is that we really approached it like a team and we were saying ‘okay, it’s your turn to step up’ and it was so great to share with them that part of the game.”
Above all, the purpose of this mentoring event is to help the Foundation Program Participants learn how to use golf as a vehicle for career enhancement – something the Business Professionals once learned from their own mentors, and were delighted to share with the next generation.
“I think it’s really important [to be involved in events like this] because a lot of people don’t know how beneficial golf can be for them,” said Lena Gautier, a Student Athlete from NIU. “It can be something you play for life. Many people miss this opportunity and it is a sport that is meant to be shared. I think golf is a great sport for kids to try out and discover.”
As the Program Participants and Business Professionals left out of the same Rich Harvest Farms gates they entered through, many of them left with a new perspectives and lifelong memories.
“It was a really moving experience for me,” said Groza. “It was very impactful. I can see how much these young girls are going to develop and give our business world. These are our future business leaders of America and the world.”
“It’s was an amazing experience,” said Khadijah. “[By participating in this event] not only will you have fun playing on an amazing course, but you will also get connections. You’ll meet a lot of great people playing golf, your future best friend or someone that can contribute to your future. If you don’t seize these types of opportunities, you’ll never know.”
The Other Side of the Green, the male equivalent event, will take place in the spring of 2017. The Kids Golf Foundation always encourages interested Business Professionals to get involved by submitting an application to mentor a Program Participant.
For more information on the mentoring events or other Kids Golf Foundation programs, contact the Foundation either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (630) 466-0913.