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Juniors are embracing golf's charitable side by supporting COVID-19 efforts

March 31, 2020
Savannah Hilton and Jonathan Griz- Photo 3.jpeg

Golf, given its occasionally vile disposition, can bring out the worst in us, but its redemption is how often it brings out the best in us. It is the most benevolent of games, and charity is the winner, as the old PGA Tour slogan says.

But more than that, it also teaches values, as some American Junior Golf Association members are demonstrating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forty-six AJGA members have been working on projects to support COVID-19 efforts and have raised more than $10,000, Tim Jackman, communications director for the AJGA, reported last week. Meet four of them:

Savannah Hylton, 17, and Jonathan Griz, 16, are from Hilton Head, S.C., and they have been assembling care packages that also include notes of thanks and delivering them to those medical personnel working in hospitals and nursing homes and first responders.

Yu Wen Lu and Eddie Zhang are from Shanghai, China, and via the AJGA’s Leadership Links program they have been raising money for Direct Relief, “a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies,” its website says.

Hylton, who has committed to playing college golf at Furman, was watching her church service online and the question arose about the impact one would want to have during this crisis.

“Jonathan and I had gotten together and we ran [the idea] by my mom,” Hylton said. “She loved the idea and it’s been awesome ever since, just being able to give back.”

Savannah Hilton and Jonathan Griz- Photo 1.jpeg

Each bag contains about eight items, including snacks and food in small bags and a drink, as well as the thank-you note. They are paying for them from funds originally earmarked for spring golf tournaments that have been canceled. The two have assembled upwards of 150 bags.

“We just talked about it and wanted to give back to our community, and with the coronavirus, doctors and nurses are working so hard,” said Griz, who has committed to playing college golf at Alabama.

The Leadership Links is the AJGA’s charitable arm that encourages its junior golfers to get involved in impacting their communities and provides them with guidance in doing so.

“Starting this donation was actually really easy with the Leadership Links,” Lu said via email. “It also gained a lot of traction within my school because a lot of my friends had resonated with the cause I was trying to support.

“I started this donation because I wanted to help out in a crisis like this. There is a supply shock as a lot of factories are being shut down as mandated by the government. The best way I can help would be to directly donate money and supplies. I hope to provide immediate help to those in need and publicize it among more members of my community to inspire more people to get onboard with similar efforts.”

Her goal was to raise $1,000, but by publicizing the effort via social media, she's raised more than $3,000.

Zhang, meanwhile, was in the U.S. when the coronavirus outbreak began in China.

“I was really lucky, as I came to the states during Chinese New Year break,” he wrote in an email. “But witnessing the exponential growth of the coronavirus cases really concerned me. Most of my friends had notified me how they felt secluded and lonely, and I expressed sympathy towards them.

“As a student in Shanghai, I felt [compelled] to at least help out the situation in China. . . . Raising money was not too difficult, as most of my friends had all first-handedly experienced the outbreak, and were willing to donate. My dad also helped spread my fundraiser link to his friends and close ones. Since many could empathize with the purpose and goal of my fundraiser, I did not have a lot of trouble raising money.”