Elise Deschaine’s dad introduced her to golf when she was 10 by signing her up for classes at the Children’s Course in Gladstone, Ore. Six years later, Deschaine is a sophomore on the Central Catholic High School golf team, a seventh-place finisher in the 2018 Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National, and a volunteer at the Children’s Course.
“I’m giving back to the organization that started me off,” she said.
Founded by Duncan Campbell in 1996, the Children’s Course offers a place for kids to learn the game and the values with which it is associated. Since 2010, the USGA/Alliance Grant Program has helped fund the facility with five grants totalling $28,500.
“On a trip to Scotland, Duncan was inspired by courses there that encouraged families to play together,” said Campbell Foundation board member and CEO Eric Gabrielson. “He’s a big advocate for young people and youth development, and he thought if there’s ever a way to replicate what he experienced in Scotland, he’d love to do that.”
The course is located in the middle of a densely populated underserved community about 12 miles south of Portland, so there’s frequently a line to board the vans that transport children from the neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the free program often has to turn kids away because it has reached capacity.
That’s why the Children’s Course is looking to build a Learning Center – complete with a simulator and classrooms – that would expand its capacity to serve 1,500 kids year-round in a space triple the size of the existing facility.
“A number of children have gone on to receive full scholarships to play college sports or been Evans Caddie Scholars,” said Gabrielson. “Kids in the community look up to these success stories and see a way out of their situations through the game of golf.”
One of those success stories is Deschaine, who got her start not only at the Children’s Course but with two junior golf programs that are supported by the USGA: LPGA/USGA Girls Golf, which uses the game to empower young females, and The First Tee, an international youth development organization that introduces the game and its values to kids.
“Golf has taught me how to be strong-minded and how to carry myself with etiquette,” Deschaine said. “If it weren’t for The First Tee or Girls Golf, I probably wouldn’t be the golfer I am today.”
Jordan Schwartz is the senior manager of social media for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.