The American Junior Golf Association presented Wyatt Larkin with its Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award on Sunday at the Rolex Junior All-America Awards Banquet at PGA National Resort. The honor is bestowed each year to one junior golfer who displays exemplary sportsmanship and integrity in the game of golf.
“I feel so honored to receive this award,” Larkin said. “To me, it means that I’m doing the right things both on and off the course, and that is what I work hard for all year.”
In February, the Morganton, Ga., native received financial assistance through the AJGA’s ACE Grant program, which allowed him to compete in four national tournaments. Since then, Larkin has been passionate about paying forward that assistance.
While watching the Golf Channel during Memorial Day weekend, Larkin noticed a feature about a group called Hope For The Warriors – a national, nonprofit organization that supports wounded U.S. service members, their families and families of the fallen.
Realizing that he would not be able to play golf without the sacrifice of these service members, Larkin committed himself to giving back to their cause. He was able to raise more than $1,000 for Hope For The Warriors through the AJGA’s Leadership Links program by securing pledges for each of his 45 birdies in tournaments this year. During the 2011 season, Larkin finished inside the top 25 in each of his tournaments, including two top-10s and a runner-up finish.
In response to his dedication, Hope For The Warriors invited Larkin to attend their Scarlet and Gold Invitational at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he addressed the audience of celebrities, dignitaries and officers about his efforts and why it was important to him.
“My goal was to help our service members,” Larkin said. “They sacrifice so much for everything that we have and it is my honor to try to give back to them. They have had a huge impact on me.”
Larkin also auctioned off two of his own memorabilia baseballs, autographed by a host of former New York Yankees, which raised more than $700 for the cause. His enthusiasm was so moving that a veteran presented Larkin with an American flag that had flown in his last battle.
Larkin’s devotion also warranted him an offer to participate in The Bush Center Warrior Open at the Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas, where he met the host, former President George W. Bush.
“Wyatt is such a talented athlete and has such a bright future,” said Robin Kelleher, President and CEO of Hope For The Warriors. “To use that as an opportunity to help others is the kind of spirit we love here. He was immediately a part of the Hope For The Warriors team and I love that he and his father took that on with great dedication.”