AJGA Name 2007 President’s Youth Leadership
Villela, Joseph Suarez rewarded for exemplary
Angela Villela, of Sylmar, Calif.,
and Joseph Suarez, of Richmond, Va., were named the
2007 President’s Youth Leadership Award recipients,
the United States Golf Association and American Junior
Golf Association announced Monday.
This award was created to recognize one boy and one
girl junior golfer who demonstrated leadership, character
and community service through their involvement with
the USGA • AJGA Youth Leadership Club – a
joint initiative founded in 2005 to further develop
junior golfers through volunteerism. In the award’s
inaugural year in 2006, Katrina Delen-Briones, of San Francisco, and Adam Michel,
of Orinda, Calif., were honored for their efforts at their local First Tee chapters.
Villela and Suarez will be honored and formally presented the award by USGA President
Walter Driver during the Rolex Dinner of Champions Thursday, July 5, 2007, during
the Rolex Tournament of Champions at The Ohio State University Golf Club in Columbus,
Ohio. Additionally, they will each receive four tickets to a future U.S. Open
of their choice, access to the USGA hospitality tent during the U.S. Open, and
an automatic entry into the 2007 Rolex Tournament of Champions - one of the most
prestigious junior golf events in the country.
Villela, 16, grew up in a Latino area of Los Angeles far away from anything golf.
She was first introduced to the game more than seven years ago through a junior
golf program initiated by Los Angeles 6th District Councilman Tony Cardenas.
As her game developed, so did her relationship with Cardenas and her commitment
to the Andres Y Maria Cardenas Foundation, which donates money to high school
graduates going on to college. Her time spent volunteering with this Foundation
affords her the opportunity to speak to her peers about fulfilling their dreams
of attending college. This is only the beginning of her selflessness in her community.
She also volunteers for the Special Olympics at Vista Valencia Golf Course
and started an after-school program called “Growing the Game” with
the help of her father, Gus Villela, and her instructor, Rudy Garcia. Last
year, she attended the First Tee of Pasadena for the first time and was asked
to instruct other juniors after her talent and devotion became so evident.
Villela is the leader of her high school golf team, both on and off the course.
As an AJGA champion, she is the team’s inspiration for elevating their
games. Improving the team’s performance was a tall task due to the lack
of appropriate equipment and practice and playing facilities. In response,
Villela organized the effort to raise funds for equipment and negotiated an
agreement with Shoal Canyon Golf Course to play and practice at no cost. The
result was a 10-0 season, a league championship and an average improvement
of 25 strokes per nine-hole round by her teammates.
“Growing up in my community, you have a lot of obstacles in life – gangs,
drugs, financial pressures and teen pregnancies,” Villela wrote in her
award application. “Through the game of golf, I have learned to never give
up and no matter what obstacles or hazards are in my life, I play on. The game
of golf does not discriminate. It doesn’t know if you’re rich or
poor, black or white, where you’re from, or where you’re going.
The rules are the same for me and you.”
Suarez, 17, connected with the game of golf as a 9-year-old through the Richmond
City Parks and Recreation Department’s Hook-A-Kid on Golf program, an inner-city
youth golf initiative. He eventually became an active participant at the Richmond
First Tee chapter and was selected to hit the facilities’ inaugural tee
shot with President George H. W. Bush. His experiences at these programs were
what taught him the rewards of volunteerism.
He started giving his time as a 12-year-old. By the time he was 16, he was
supporting The First Tee of Richmond, Richmond’s Hook-a-Kid on Golf program,
his church, Challenge Golf League, Traditions of Golf Challenge, LPGA Michelob
ULTRA Open, Habitat for Humanity, CARITAS, Martin Luther King, Jr., Read Aloud
Program, and MADE, Men Advocating Diverse Equality.
“Joseph is the most dedicated young individual that I’ve had pleasure
to work with,” said Donald Coleman, director of golf programs for the Richmond
City Parks and Recreation Department. “He is the first one to arrive and
the last one to leave for programs and activities relating to golf. His life
has and is touching many others’ lives in a positive way.”
This is shown in his amount of time he devotes to volunteerism. In the past three
years, Suarez has volunteered a staggering 1,200 hours, including nearly 500
hours this year alone.
“It makes you feel like you accomplished something great when you make
a difference in the life of a kid,” Suarez wrote in his application letter. “When
you give back your time to help community programs, especially that help other
kids learn golf, you develop and reap leadership skills as well.”
Mention - President's Youth Leadership Award
Victoria Arena, Lansdale, Pa.
Mitch Anderson, Dana Point, Calif.
Kelly Coakley, Brookfield, Wis.
Kelsey Conway, Ventura, Calif.
Kristen Hagan, Charlotte, N.C.
Drew Johnson, Charlottem N.C.
Smylie Kaufman, Birmingham, Ala.
MacKinzie Kline, Encinitas, Calif.
Chris Severn, Oak Park, Calif.
Kelly Shon, Port Washington, N.Y.