MWGA-Sponsored LPGA*USGA Girls Golf Program Wins Initial GAM Champion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award
The Michigan Women’s Golf Association (MWGA)-sponsored LPGA*USGA Girls Golf Program has been named the winner of the first Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) Champion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award.
The program, underwritten by the MWGA for over 15 years and a chapter of the national LPGA*USGA Girls Golf Program, offers Detroit inner city girls a chance to learn about golf, including lessons for play and life. The goal is to inspire and transform their lives through the game.
The LPGA*USGA Girls Golf Program, including the MWGA program, has over 90,000 current members and 500 chapters in the U.S. The programs incorporate workbooks, lessons and materials that teach the five Es – enrich, energize, empower, engage and exercise.
Jane Kersjes, a long-time MWGA member and volunteer supporter of the program, said it was nice to be recognized for the hard work everyone has put in over the years.
“As an organization that is inclusive of all women, it is especially rewarding that MWGA is receiving this award for extending that philosophy of inclusion to girls,” she said. “It has been an enriching experience to have helped grow the game of golf to girls that just want to try it out and to those that are invested in developing their game. The game is so much more than golf. To see the girls grow while interacting with the coaches and their peers is what makes it so rewarding.”
Chris Whitten, executive director of the GAM, said he is especially happy for the MWGA because they do such strong work in the city of Detroit.
“They are focusing on growth for young girls not only with instruction and teaching them the game, but they include life lessons and even a trip to an LPGA tournament every year, so it’s really a well-rounded program,” he said. “The MWGA is a group that’s had a long and important affiliation with the GAM, and I think it’s great that we can recognize their efforts to bring golf to really an underserved area.”
Over 300 African-American, Arabic, Asian and white junior girls have participated and several golfers have gone on to play high school and college scholarship golf.
In just 2021 the MWGA members contributed more than $2,500 and volunteered more than 100 hours to the program, and in the last three years 17 girls from the program have played on high school or college teams. All of the participating girls are members of the national Youth on Course program through the GAM Foundation as well.
“It’s our goal that every girl who comes in contact with our program will always feel important, appreciated, respected, supported and safe,” said Francine Pegues of the MWGA. “Whether they are with us for a season, a day or even just two hours, her experience with our program will stay with her for life. The bottom-line; These girls are the future of golf.”
The MWGA conducts 10 sessions of 2 ½ hours at each of two sites during the summer for the girls and presents a junior-adult scramble. The sessions consist of individual lessons, on-course playing lessons and life lessons like nutrition tips.
The MWGA has also purchased over 50 sets of golf bags for the young golfers to use during the program, and each year a trip is funded to an LPGA tournament to participate in the LPGA*USGA programs on site. The scramble event at the end of the year involves family members and MWGA volunteers. Last summer, with funds from the Renee Powell Fund, the girls attended the Dow LPGA Classic in Midland.
Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member Debbie Williams-Hoak of Ann Arbor, the winner of the 2017 LPGA Sandy Le Bove Teacher of the Year Award for her instruction work in the program, and Terry Anthony Ryan of Southfield, also a highly regarded teaching professional in the state, do the instruction. They follow in the footsteps of the program’s initial instructor, Julia Baldwin of Detroit, the first African-American LPGA instructor in Michigan.
The MWGA Girls Golf Program partners with the U.S. Navy, which supplies healthy snacks for the 10 sessions, and female Naval personnel attend the final scramble to share with the girls opportunities for naval careers. Wayne State Medical School provides an instructor for the program, who also shares medical and health care related career information.