Have T-shirts, Will Cheer

Pennsylvania schoolchildren participating in the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open “Adopt-A-Player”educational program are suited up and ready to cheer their players on at SauconValley C.C. in July

By David Shefter, USGA

Bethlehem, Pa.– As the third- and fourth-graders at Fountain Hill Elementary School made their way down the steps toward the cafeteria, a sense of anticipation filled the air.

The students knew what was coming, but even without the element of surprise, they remained excited and giddy.

Once the kids were seated and organized by class, Meredith Reeves from MSG Promotions Inc., the Bethlehem-based sports marketing firm helping run the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, offered a brief introduction. Then the teachers -- Nicole Spirk, Ashley Schellhaas and Jennifer Eisenhard -- asked for one volunteer from each class to assist with the distribution of red T-shirts, each with “Christina’s Champs” printed on the front

Fountain Hill Students
Fountain Hill Elementary students proudly display their “Christina's Champs” T-shirts as part of the Adopt-A-Player Program for the 2009 U.S. Women's Open. (John Mummert/USGA)

Since last October, approximately 70 children at Fountain Hill have participated in “Adopt-A-Player,” a unique educational program taking place in conjunction with the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, to be played July 9-12 at nearby Saucon Valley Country Club. Twenty-five LPGA tour players agreed to participate in the year-long program, which encompasses some 4,000 students from 171 classes at 76 schools in eastern Pennsylvania.

The Fountain Hill students adopted three-time LPGA tour winner Christina Kim, a native of San Jose,Calif., who turned pro in 2002 after a stellar amateur career that saw her shoot a 62 during stroke-play qualifying at the 2001 U.S. Girls’ Junior and make the cut – as a 17-year-old – at the 2001 U.S. Women’s Open.

Among other top female professionals who have signed on as electronic pen pals with these Pennsylvania schoolchildren: Two-time U.S.  Women’s Open champions Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb, former USA Curtis Cuppers Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford, 2004 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Julieta Granada, and past U.S. Women’s Amateur champions Amanda Blumenherst (who turned pro in May), Pat Hurst, Jill McGill, Virada Nirapathpongporn and JanePark.

Each professional chose a specific colored T-shirt and catchy phrase – Creamer’s kids are “Paula’s Pink Panthers,” and Inkster’s students are “Juli’s Juniors.”

During the practice rounds for the Women’s Open, the students are encouraged to wear their shirts so their corresponding players can recognize them. The students gain free entrance to the championship, and their parents can purchase reduced-rate tickets.

The goal is to have as many of the participating studentscome to the championship as possible.

“I have never met a professional athlete before,” said beaming 9-year-old Kalyn Ramirez, a student in Spirk’s fourth-grade class. “I am looking forward to meeting [Christina].”

The students electronically communicate with their adopted LPGA tour players and they, in turn, receive messages from the golfers. The dialogue is part of a lesson plan that follows state curriculum standards. The goal is that by communicating with their adopted player as she travels the world, students enhance their knowledge and skills in literacy, math, social studies and culture – and get excited about the national championship soon t otake place so close to home. 

For their part, Schellhaas’ fourth-graders provided Kim a brief history of the Lehigh Valley and suggested some places to visit during the Women’s Open.

“Do you know what you can do for fun?” the students asked Kim in a blog. “There is a great ice cream store called Ice Cream World across the street from the biggest [amusement] park in Pennsylvania -- Dorney Park.The Lehigh Valley has so many places to eat that you are sure to find something you’ll love.”

Kim responded: “I also do LOVE ice cream, and look forward to checking out Ice Cream World. I will make a point of going to Dorney Park and having one of their delicious corn dogs. I also have not had a corn dog in many years! I grew up riding at my favorite amusement park, Paramount’sGreat America in Santa Clara, Calif. I loved to ride the Demon, Top Gun and Drop Zone, a free-fall ride that fell hundreds of feet. Talk about a thrilling ride!”

On the day the students received their T-shirts, they took a field trip to a local miniature golf course. On the ride to the facility, they passed Saucon Valley C.C.

Most of the students have never been to a golf event, so theWomen’s Open will provide a new experience.

It will also give them a chance to finally interact with their electronic pen pal.

While also proudly wearing those “Christina’s Champs” shirts.

David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him withquestions or comments at dshefter@usga.org.

To read more about Adopt-A-Playerand the 2009 U.S.Women’s Open, click on this link.





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