BRASELTON, Ga. – Angela Villela, of Sylmar, Calif., and Joseph Suarez, of Richmond, Va., were given the 2007 President’s Youth Leadership Award Thursday, July 5 during the Rolex Tournament of Champions at The Ohio State University Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio.
This award was created to recognize one boy and one girl AJGA member who demonstrated leadership, character and community service through their involvement with the USGA-AJGA Youth Leadership Club – a joint initiative founded in 2006 to further develop junior golfers through volunteerism. In the award’s inaugural year, Katrina Delen-Briones, of San Francisco, and Adam Michel, of Orinda, Calif., were honored for their efforts at their local The First Tee chapters.
“We hope that the USGA’s support of the AJGA and this award will continue to set the tone for people who are leaders in their communities, in their schools, and particularly in golf,” USGA President Walter Driver said during the Rolex Dinner of Champions. “All of you in this room are going to have a rich career in golf, however it goes, so I urge you to give back to the game.”
Villela, 16, earned this honor through her commitment to the Andres Y Maria Cardenas Foundation, which donates money to high school graduates going on to college. 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. Additionally, Villela organized the effort to raise funds for equipment and negotiated an agreement with Shoal Canyon Golf Course for her high school golf team 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.
“I didn’t do this because I wanted to be recognized, I did it because it had to be done,” Villela said in her acceptance speech. “Tonight is not about me. This night is about growing the game of golf. It’s about giving and not expecting anything in return.”
Suarez started giving his time as a 12-year-old. By the time he was 16, he was supporting The First Tee of Richmond and numerous other local organizations, including Richmond’s Hook-a-Kid on Golf program, his church and Challenge Golf League. In the past three years, Suarez has volunteered hundreds of hours, including nearly 500 hours this year alone.
“I’m blessed to have had great support from the time I started hitting golf balls,” Suarez said upon receiving the award. “I’d like to encourage everyone to help out in your respective communities not just for material rewards. It’s a great feeling to help out around the community you live in.”
By receiving this honor, Villela and Suarez will each receive four tickets to a future U.S. Open of their choice and access to the USGA hospitality tent during the U.S. Open. They also received an automatic entry into the 2007 Rolex Tournament of Champions – one of the most prestigious junior golf events in the country.