Bernstein’s Gift Reaps Rewards


Sam Bernstein, a New York native, began his involvement with a group of kids from the Harlem Children's Zone as a high school senior. (USGA/John Mummert)
By Greg Midland, USGA
August 13, 2013

BROOKLINE, Mass. – Sam Bernstein will, of course, be focusing on his golf game during his second round of stroke-play qualifying at Charles River Country Club Tuesday afternoon. But should he have a rough stretch of holes, the 21-year-old New York City native and Yale University rising senior may find himself thinking about some young people in Harlem who help him keep competitive golf in perspective.

During Bernstein’s senior year of high school at the Fieldston School in the Bronx, N.Y., he submitted an application for the AJGA Scholastic All-America Team, which requires an essay. The award is sponsored by HP, and the best-essay winner receives a computer donated to his or her high school. Bernstein’s essay was chosen, and he quickly saw an opportunity to give back.

“I thought another school with fewer resources than mine could probably benefit from the computer more, so I asked the AJGA if I could donate it someplace else,” Bernstein recalls. “I started to do some research and came across the Harlem Children’s Zone.”

Dating to 1970, the Harlem Children’s Zone is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help address the systemic problems facing low-income residents of Harlem and the surrounding neighborhoods of upper Manhattan. Its president and CEO, Geoffrey Canada, has overseen a well-publicized and successful series of outreach programs that includes the Promise Academy, a charter school that opened in 2004. This is where Bernstein first met the kids who would become an important part of his life.

“I went in to meet with the elementary school principal, and a few of the kids – fourth- through sixth-graders at the time – told me they loved golf and sometimes hit putts in the principal’s office,” said Bernstein.

This is where Bernstein’s original idea of donating a computer turned into a continuing affiliation between him, his family and friends, and a special group of youngsters.

Once he learned of the kids’ interest in golf, Bernstein, whose family belongs to Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., began to take some of the kids under his wing before leaving for college.

“We started out just going to Chelsea Piers a couple days a week to hit balls, and I got a couple of my friends from school to come help out and give the kids some basic instruction,” he said. “Then I brought them out to Century one or two times. It was so cool to do those field trips and see their eyes light up when they saw a real golf course.”

Now that Bernstein is at Yale and the kids are middle- and high-school age, golf is just part of their activities. A couple of the kids have visited him in New Haven to see the Yale campus and get a sense of a college atmosphere, and he’s recruited others to help with the cause, including his younger brother, Will, also a talented golfer who plans to follow his brother to Yale next year.

“With me being away at school, I really have to give credit to Will,” says Sam. “It’s great that I got this started but he’s kept it going and gotten others involved.”

Those others include a few former Yale golfers who live in New York, including past captain Ben Wescoe, who continue the Chelsea Piers trips with the kids and make sure they have continued exposure to golf and to the doors it opens.

If Sam ends up getting a job and living in New York after his 2014 graduation, he intends to return to more hands-on involvement. In the meantime, he’s doing all he can to keep in contact with the kids, which he says benefits him as much as them.

“You can easily get frustrated in the grind of being a competitive golfer,” says Bernstein, who shot a 4-over 74 during the first round of stroke-play qualifying at the U.S. Amateur and needed a good round on Tuesday to advance into match play. “But when you think of the kids and how being out a golf course is one of the greatest things in the world for them, you can take a step back and think how cool the experience has been. It makes me want to spend more time with them.”

It’s a feeling that is likely mutual for the golf-mad youngsters at the Harlem Children’s Zone.

Greg Midland is the USGA’s director of editorial and multimedia content. E-mail him at gmidland@usga.org.

 

THE RULES OF GOLF APP
Get The Rules of Golf App For Your iPhone Or Android Today
Follow the USGA
Become a Facebook Fan of the USGAFollow us on Twitter @USGA
World Amateur Golf Ranking
WAGR Counting Event
Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
Chevron
   

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image
Rolex
   

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.



Rolex image
IBM
   

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image
Lexus
   

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express
   

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment


AmEx image