Serving Golf By Becoming
A USGA Fellow
October 29, 2008
USGA Fellows facilitate the USGA Grants Initiative and other direct charitable activities. A dynamic, two-year experience, the USGA Fellowship cultivates skills ideal for recent college graduates. Read more about the USGA Grants and Fellowship Program in Colorado Springs, Colo. - and find out how to apply for a 2009 Fellowship.
By Matt Keys
Judith Ruiz is a 52-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Chicago, Ill.
Diego Gaspar is a high-school student in Edwards, Colo.
Two very different people, one shared ending. Through their involvement in USGA-supported programs, both Ruiz and Gaspar have used the game of golf to help them overcome obstacles and achieve success.
As a participant in Revelation Golf, a program that introduces golf and its values to those with disabilities, including many veterans, Ruiz got "self-confidence back in my life by pushing my physical and mental limits on the golf course." It has been this new mindset that propelled Ruiz to successfully qualify and compete in the 28th National Wheelchair Games this past summer.
|Second-year Fellow Megan Higgins has been assigned to the Great Plains Region. (USGA)
For Gaspar, The First Tee of Eagle County has been a lifeline, the catalyst behind his transformation from irreverent teenager to a positive role model and mentor to other at-risk youth. "Diego personifies what our golf program strives to teach - responsibility, integrity, and honesty" comments Dave Kolquist, Executive Director of The First Tee of Eagle County.
Ruiz and Gaspar are just two of the 2.2 million people throughout the country who have been positively impacted by the USGA Grants Initiative. Since 1997, the USGA has committed more than $62 million to support the development of golf programs and alternative facilities for the benefit of underserved youth, girls, and individuals with disabilities. The USGA firmly believes that any person, regardless of background, should have an opportunity to benefit from golf's inherent values and rich history.
To help fulfill this commitment, the USGA instituted the Fellowship in Leadership and Service. An intensive, two-year program based in Colorado Springs, the Fellowship enables recent college graduates to develop professional skills and leadership qualities by assisting organizations like Revelation Golf and The First Tee that benefit others through golf. Typically, six college graduates are selected each year to form a Fellowship class. While it's certainly helpful to have an interest in and knowledge of golf, playing the game is not a prerequisite of the position. Instead, candidates are primarily judged on their scholastic aptitude, their willingness to learn and succeed in a challenging environment, and their interest in working in the non-profit sector.
Each incoming Fellow works closely with a second-year Fellow, or mentor, to facilitate the USGA grant application process. Fellows are responsible for analyzing applicants' organizational, strategic, and development plans, before presenting findings to the USGA Grants Committee. As a whole, Fellows process around 275 applications during the year, of which typically 200 to 225 are partially or fully funded by the USGA.
Fellows travel throughout the country, working with grant applicants and recipients - and along the way witness the power of a program's impact on a community.
"During my first site visit, I visited a tough and impoverished town in Ohio," recalls Rebecca Calderara, a first-year Fellow and graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "There, I met with Tom Parteleno, who was building a short course by moving sand literally bucket by bucket. The course will eventually partner with a USGA-supported program that serves children from low-income housing across the street. This gentleman works tirelessly, for no financial gain, but rather to make an impact in his community through golf. It's a visit I'll never forget."
In addition to facilitating the USGA Grants Initiative, Fellows help make possible an array of direct charitable activities that aim to make the game of golf accessible and affordable. These initiatives, many of which are supported by other leading golf organizations, include:
JuniorLinks.com - A Web site for children, parents, and program directors, designed to share information about junior golf program availability and operations.
Kids On Course - An initiative that aims to secure affordable golf course access for participants in USGA-supported programs.
USGA Resource Center for Individuals with Disabilities - A clearinghouse of information regarding accessible golf.
Catch the Spirit - A nationwide program that enables thousands of juniors - many of whom have had limited exposure to the game - to experience a USGA Championship.
LPGA-USGA Girls Golf - A partnership that provides young girls the opportunity to learn the game of golf, build lasting friendships, and experience competition in a supportive environment.
"Each new class of Fellows emerges with innovative ideas on how better to fulfill our mission and reach those individuals who will benefit most," says Erica Goodman, Senior Fellow and graduate of Middlebury College. "For example, the Military Golf Program, a partnership between the National Amputee Golf Association and the USGA Resource Center for Individuals with Disabilities, began in July, 2008, at Fort Carson, Colo. This pilot program reached more than 20 enlisted personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder. But with two more sites scheduled and an ever- lengthening waiting list, the program continues to grow. With the guidance of future Fellows, this program will hopefully benefit many more of the men and women who have served, and sacrificed, for our country."
Fellows continue to cultivate professional skills and leadership qualities by participating in a professional development curriculum. Notably, Fellows acquire knowledge in non-profit management and fundraising, which is directly applicable to their work.
"A program director in my region was unable to develop a consistent revenue stream," commented Jack Hendrickson, current second-year Fellow and graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Madison. "By incorporating techniques I learned in the Fellowship's non-profit management class, I was able to help him identify targets and formulate a message encouraging individuals to financially support the organization."
Other components of the professional development curriculum include public-speaking seminars, a personal finance course, career counseling sessions, and etiquette training.
Nearly 80 percent of alumni Fellows stay involved in the non-profit sector in some capacity after their Fellowship concludes. This involvement ranges from donating time and money to local charities to pursuing a career within the sector. However, the skill set acquired in this two-year experience has enabled Fellows to venture down a variety of career paths, including politics, law and medicine.
Fellows have also gone onto careers in the for-profit sector. Josh Gelfand, Fellowship Class of 2006 and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, recently began working as an analyst for the investment firm Green Manning & Bunch in Denver, Colo.
"The skills necessary to perform well in finance - attention to detail, managing expectations, flexibility, and dealing with managers - are the same skills I learned at the USGA. After my hiring, several bosses told me I had the job before I even interviewed. The reasoning, they said, was because the USGA Fellowship program does such a tremendous job training its employees that they were confident I would have the level of professionalism and reliability needed to succeed in a challenging environment."
The application deadline for the Class of 2009 Fellows is January 8, 2009. To learn more about the application process, please click the link below or contact Fellow Andrew Brockman at (719) 471.4810, ext. 29
Third-year Fellow Matt Keys is a 2006 graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.
Apply for the Class of 2009!
Grants and Fellowship Homepage
Meet the Current Fellows
Apply for a Grant
Holiday Card Contest