Liensay Marie Pastoral scampers from one shady patch of grass to the next, seeking refuge from the burning sun on a scorching 90-degree day. She’s nearing the end of her nine-hole round in the sixth annual LPGA-USGA Greater Newark Girls Golf Invitational at Weequahic Golf Course, a green oasis within the largest city in New Jersey.
Upon reaching the final tee, the 12-year-old’s tiny body collapses to the ground in a dramatic plea for rest. She allows her two playing partners to go first before plucking a driver from the bag and – perhaps inspired by the prospect of lunch ahead – smacking a perfect shot onto the green. The 150-yard hole plays as a par 4 for this younger group and so Pastoral’s second putt drops for her first lifetime birdie.
“I’m keeping this ball forever!” she shouts before running to the clubhouse.
Pastoral of Queens, N.Y., was one of the dozens of tristate area girls taking part in the open competition. The local Girls Golf chapter itself has 62 enrollees and runs from May to July every Wednesday evening at the Galloping Hill Golf Course Learning Center in Kenilworth. This day’s event was a special treat.
“We decided the girls should experience participation in a tournament,” said site director Beverly E. Harrison, who has been with the chapter since its founding in 2005. “We still follow the USGA Rules; however, it’s more about the experience than the competition.”
Harrison stressed the importance of exposing the kids to all aspects of the game.
“We bring in groundskeepers, lady pros and golf course owners,” she said. “We want the girls to know there are myriad things they can do in the golf industry, so they’ll know that after high school and college, there’s still an avenue for them to pursue the game because they won’t all become pros.”
The LPGA-USGA Girls Golf of Greater Newark, which is a 501(c) 3 program of Renaissance Junior Golf, Inc., has had several success stories.
Kim Brown, who signed up in 1995, became the first African-American female golfer to compete at Yale University. After graduation, she was hired as an assistant site director at the First Tee of Seattle.