U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Hipp Gives Back to Local Community Through Golf August 2, 2016 | Springfield, Pa. By Lisa D. Mickey

Taking a break from competitive golf has opened Cali Hipp's eyes to other possibilities within the game. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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It wasn’t the same feeling as striping an approach shot to within inches of the hole and tapping in for birdie. But when bidders paid $100 each for her apple pies during a junior golf fundraiser this year, Cali Hipp enjoyed a different sense of fulfillment.

That was a new experience for Hipp, 23, of Caldwell, Idaho, who decided to step away from competitive golf for a year after graduating from the University of Oregon, where she was a three-time Pacific-12 Conference All-Academic team member.

Unlike many players her age, Hipp elected not to explore professional golf immediately after college. Instead, she returned home to work in the community where she grew up, helping the Idaho Junior Golf Foundation raise nearly $60,000 in its annual dinner auction in April.

It was a night in which locals bid on high-end golf packages, U.S. Open tickets, fly-fishing trips and equipment, and, yes, $100 apple pies to benefit Boise’s scholarship program for junior golfers.

“I think the biggest hit that night was the homemade desserts,” said Hipp, who is playing in her second U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship this week at Rolling Green Golf Club, where she hopes to advance to match play, beginning on Wednesday.

“Those desserts were our starting point in the auction and it just kind of rolled from there,” she added. “People spent a lot on them just for fun and for a great cause.”

That fundraising endeavor was Hipp’s welcome home and a chance to stay involved in the game she ultimately picked over downhill skiing. Raising funds for the Cody Hayes Memorial Golf Scholarship has been an important initiative in her community since 2003, following the death of a local teen in an automobile accident while driving home from the state’s junior championship.

The local memorial fund started with a few thousand dollars and now awards scholarships to college freshmen who competed in the Idaho Junior Golf Foundation.

“They don’t have to play college golf to get a scholarship, but they are kids who came through our program,” said Hipp, who also serves on the foundation’s board. “One of our goals is to create more awareness for our programs in an effort to attract more juniors and to hopefully get more kids involved.”

Hipp also worked with local seventh-graders as a psycho-socio rehab specialist from winter to the end of the school year. She assisted at-risk students with special needs that aren’t always medically diagnosed.

“I would be in the classroom with them and make sure they stayed on task or they weren’t disturbing other students or distracting themselves from working,” she said. “I learned more from that than anything else I’ve ever experienced.”

When asked what that mentoring experience taught her, Hipp paused.

“It made me see the way I grew up, where my parents provided everything they could for me, and then I saw kids who went through some really rough times at a very young age,” she said. “It’s hard to see some of that because you know there’s only so much you can do to help them, but you can be a good influence on them in school.”

Hipp left the school each day at 3 p.m., giving her the time to serve as an assistant coach at Middleton High School, where she maintained a 3.99 GPA and was one of the state’s elite golfers. As a junior, Hipp won Idaho Junior Golf Association age group titles from 2005-2009, and became the youngest female to win the Idaho Women’s Amateur Championship at age 15 in 2008.

Once school ended, Hipp took a summer internship at TMN Events, a Boise-based business that hosts corporate outings and incentive trips throughout the United States and Europe for Forbes 500 companies. At TMN, she has been able to use her experience in golf to help create golf events for executives.

Recently, the company took 36 corporate executives to the Grand Teton area and set up rounds of golf, a private dinner at a dude ranch and gave the guests a chance to bond in a casual atmosphere.

“The outing allowed the company to thank some of their top executives and to show their clients that they appreciated their business,” said Hipp. “It’s pretty interesting and I could see myself doing more of this kind of work.”

Hipp has had her eyes opened to the possibilities of using golf on the corporate level. One of TMN Events’ staff members is a PGA professional who offers his instructional golf expertise to corporate guests. Teaching golf is another option that Hipp has considered.

But while her colleagues are focused on giving corporate America a nice time out, they, along with some of the business executives she has met, have also been supportive of Hipp’s future in golf, wherever it leads her.

“I’m around a lot of pretty successful people and many of them seem to enjoy the fact that I’m playing in the U.S. Women’s Amateur this week,” said Hipp during her week off from work.

This week’s national championship has been a fun reunion with the competitive game she loves, but admittedly Hipp wasn’t ready to plunge into a higher level of competition out of college.

“I think I needed a break … once I finished college,” she said. “I think it’s been really healthy for me to take a year off and to just play golf for fun.”

Hipp says this week’s national championship has “sparked” her love of competition and she has not completely ruled out testing the waters as a pro some day, but she plans to return to work next week for a corporate event in Sun Valley with 400 guests.

With those executives, she can share her knowledge and love of the game – which, for Hipp, is as easy as apple pie.

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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