Friday, July 4, 2014

Golding’s Girls Experience the Sweet Spot of Life, One Swing at a Time

60 years ago a priest in Southern Ontario gave a set of sawed-off hickory golf clubs to tiny 5 year old girl who wanted to play golf. Little did he know what an impact that gift would have on her life and that of thousands of young girls in some of the most poverty-stricken regions of Africa.

Little Ginny Golding, fell in love with the game and went on to become the first female member of the PGA of BC. She is a pioneer for women’s golf in BC and the poster child for players who are committed to giving back through golf.

Ginny Helps Dennis Get Back into Golf
where she volunteers at Adapted Golf Clinics 
So it was no surprise on June 23, 2014, that Ginny celebrated her 65th birthday by playing 65 holes of golf One Swing at a Time (OSAT) at the University Golf Club (UGC) in Vancouver and raised over $80,000 for the Canadian Harambee Education Society (CHES) – a Canadian non-profit organization near to Ginny’s heart that educates young girls in Kenya and Tanzania.

United Nations and World Bank studies have shown that educating women to the same level as men results in better family health, smaller families, longer life expectancy, higher community economic productivity, and more educated families.

"The hope of a promising bright African girl to attend secondary school is a dream that rarely happens. In rural Kenya and Tanzania women do most of the hard labour and often are forced into marriage at an early age as the 2nd or 3rd wife of a much older man. Education breaks this cycle," said Dr. Joy Ruffeski, Executive Director, CHES Canada. “One Swing at a Time will not only change the lives of thousands of women in Africa, it will have a profound impact on all those who come in contact with them.”

Six years ago, Ginny watched the CBC documentary, ‘Educating Margaret’ – a poignant story about a bright young girl in Kenya who was denied the right to a high school education because her family was too poor to pay for it. But through the generosity of one Canadian teacher, Lorrie Williams, (founder of CHES) and Margaret’s love for learning, that young woman went on to graduate high school and secure a full scholarship to university to study nursing.

Since 1985 Harambee has educated over 9,000 women in Africa. Margaret’s daughter, Lorrie Mukirazi (who just graduated from Sprott Shaw College and looking to do her Masters at UBC next year), joined in on the OSAT celebration at UGC.

"Harambee" is Swahili for "Pull Together" And that’s exactly what Ginny and those who love her did for The Girls!

It was a enchanting day -- full of laughter, goose bumps, tears of joy and like most golf games, a whole lot of trash talking and even more teasing.

It started at sun rise with a handful of Golding Groupies warming their hands over hot cups of coffee generously brewed and delivered by non-other than the General Manager of UGC, Michael Mather; and ended with over 150 supporters lining the 18th fairway as Michael bookended the 65 holes with champagne.

“To be able to be a small part of this special day, from before Ginny’s 1st shot at 5:28am and then watching the awesome, final ‘par’ putt on the 65th hole, was something that I’ll remember forever,” shared Michael. “Everyone associated with University GC is so proud of what Ginny stands for and accomplished; she is a ‘true’ professional and a wonderful human being.”

The 4 OSAT Pit Crews consisted of members of CHES, students and friends of Ginny’s and her two adoring children, Jeremy and Jessica.

The Pit Crews worked tirelessly all day doing whatever was needed to support Ginny in her golf marathon madness.

There was always someone teeing up her ball, filling in divots, raking bunkers, cleaning her golf ball, fixing ball marks on the green, tending the pin, lining up putts, calculating yardages, picking out clubs to hit, capturing Kodak moments or keeping her dry when the liquid sunshine made its way on course.

To start the rounds off on the right foot, the crews were given a few tips on the “simple” task of teeing up Ginny’s ball; and that’s when the “fun” really began…

Jeremy, a pilot, who flew in from Calgary to take on the very important role of caddie and chauffeur enjoyed all the toys and technology that came with his new responsibilities.

Before the day began Jeremy couldn’t tell the difference between a pitching, gap, lob or sand wedge; he didn’t even understand the importance of cleaning a golf ball BEFORE you putt it.

But when Ginny’s ball decided to commune with nature on the hardest hole on the golf course, Jeremy’s expertise really kicked in when he promised Ginny he would rescue her out of a dicey situation with a “Tree Wedge”.

“My mom is such a generous person and a great teacher, so I wasn't surprised at all with the big turnout,” shared Jeremy. “It was a fun day and I think my expert club selection really helped her out.”

Meanwhile, Jessica travelled all the way from Singapore to support her mother in her mission to make a better life for “The Girls”.

“My mum built a successful career from her passion for golf -- a game she has played since the age of 5,” shared Jessica. “She was a mother and 5th grade teacher prior to turning pro at 35 and she channeled those experiences into the devoted instructor she is today. Her love of the game is contagious and shines through to her students.”

The evidence was overwhelming as we drove up the 18th fairway - her 65th hole - to a crowd of 150+ people cheering and singing her a happy birthday.

The results from One Swing at a Time were astounding yet not surprising. Her 65th challenge will help so many CHES girls and I'm so proud to have been able to share this very special day with my mum and all the spectacular people who played a part in her success.”

Jessica relished her role of sports psychologist and nutritionist throughout the day, giving pep talks down the fairway and almost force-feeding Ginny an abundance of healthy snacks prescribed by Nutrition Coach, Ramona Josephson.

However, she did tend to treat the rules of golf and golf etiquette as “just suggestions”. Interrupting Ginny in the middle of her pre-shot routine with an innocuous question or comment caused a bit of a stir. After a gentle reprimand about not talking during, what Jess referred to as “pre-hitty movements”, Ginny’s lovely daughter responded with, “Aren't you glad I came, mum?!”

Kids say the darndest things, don’t they?

Like when Ginny…

  • Told Jeremy she needed to check the lie of her ball before choosing a club around the green; to which Jeremy chimed, “No, I need a decision now, please.”
  • Missed her putt on 12 and her loving son, never short on encouraging remarks, piped up with, “The girls in Africa would be so ashamed.” I think Jessica smacked him at that point.

But it wasn’t just the kidlets who had a few prize words for Ginny.  On the 14th hole, someone (who shall remain anonymous) shouted, “For an old broad that was a damn fine shot!”

Gord Denham, a student of Ginny’s for the past 6 years reversed roles for OSAT and became her coach the entire day. He lined up most of her putts and after watching her come up short on some, he insisted on giving her a putting lesson between rounds. He also didn’t back down on debates over club selections.

For example, on 16, Gord wanted Ginny to hit a 9 iron; she argued for an 8, grabbed her snowman club and subsequently flew the green and bogeyed the hole. It was at that point in the round that we discovered that “Adrenaline Factor” isn’t the only “choice phrase” that starts with the letters ‘A’ and ‘F’. Stop laughing Gord!

It truly was a magical day – the kind of day when you feel like you’re walking 10 feet above the fairways, flying high on love.

But nothing could compare to the walk up 18 when Ginny discovered the gallery of fans waiting to cheer her on and sing Happy Birthday. Even the spirit of her sister Carolyn, who passed away years ago, was present in the form of a beautiful organic golf club made from a bird of paradise – Carolyn’s favorite flower.

After it was all over, I asked some fans and supporters their thoughts on the day. Here are just a few.

Jean Swenerton
Golf Student of Ginny’s since 1986
"What a truly amazing inspirational day! The way Ginny celebrated her 65th birthday, golfing 65 holes, raising $81,000 to educate girls in Africa (CHES, Canadian Harambee Education Society), embodied the spirit and passion of the wonderful person and golf professional Ginny is – talented, creative, inspiring, caring, giving and generous – all reflected by the huge crowd of helpers and supporters lining the 18th fairway, cheering her on, spontaneously, lovingly, singing “Happy Birthday to you” as she played her way down the 65th hole. “Harambee”, pulling together - what an inspired, moving," joyous day for everyone!

Mimi Cooke
OSAT Photographer
Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club
“To be 'inside the ropes' to witness Ginny's incredible feat was such a privilege. Coming up the 18th fairway to a crowd surrounding the green, all awaiting Ginny's grand finale, I looked around and, including myself, I noticed there were many tears of joy and pride being shed.

To feel the love and admiration for what had been accomplished by one 65 year old woman, playing golf and raising money to change the lives of countless young girls a world away- priceless!”

Gord Denham
OSAT Caddie
Mott Electric
“Ginny embodies the phrase ‘attraction rather than promotion’. It was from listening and almost hanging onto every word that I learned about the charity CHES that she has been involved with for many years.

Four years ago I had the chance to join a threesome of lovely ladies for their annual charity golf tournament. Since then, they've warmly welcomed me back each year to play with them and I'm assuming their hugs are of love and not attempted strangulation.

When Ginny shared that she intended to play 65 holes of golf on her 65th birthday in an attempt to raise $65,000 for CHES, I was 'in' from the word ‘go’.

This was a day I couldn't miss. It was an incredible opportunity to be alongside Ginny and crew and see every single shot and stroke. The great people I met are a testament to Ginny and how she conducts herself in her personal life, golf life and business life.

Well done Ginny and a big shout out to the University Golf Club for all the work they did for making the day a big success.”

There’s no question OSAT made a huge impression on everyone involved. But what about the golfer…

Ginny Golding
Finishing Off her 65th Hole
“My new slogan is ‘18 holes is for sissies!’”, teased Ginny. “If golf is truly a metaphor for life, then playing 65 holes on my 65th birthday makes me want to live forever!

How I felt that day is how I elect to live my life.... at peace, with joy, with a spring in my step, with all senses firing on all pistons, laughing and surrounded by family and friends, in the present and with gratitude for the magic!

I am not sure what happened, but I have never played golf in this state before, in a zone that I would love to bottle! The grass was a brilliant green, textured and soft. The ball was dimpled and oh so white. My body felt 60 years younger, giving me a tasty reminder of the day when I hit my first golf ball! Fired by adrenalin and sheer joy, I played freely with ease!

I was at one with the sweet spot of life all day!"

I have no idea what Ginny will do for her 70th birthday, but whatever it is, I have no doubt that it will be amazing.

As I wrap up this story I wonder if that priest, no longer of this world, is looking down on her from above with a smile and thinking, “Ginny, I always knew you were Heaven sent.”

Happy Birthday Ginny!

With much love from,

“Your Girls” xoxo

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Growing the Game of Golf one Club at a Time

During my most recent golf getaway to Maui, I played my favorite sport every day at my favorite golf resort on the island – Ka’anapali Resort.

People often ask me, why Ka’anapali when there are so many great courses on the island?  And my answer is always the same, “I’ve been playing golf on Maui since 2007. Except for two smaller venues on the east coast, I’ve played every course on the island many times including two on Lana’i.  I’ve even played courses that don’t exist anymore.

And although most these courses are worth the price of admission, they lack something that greets me every time I get out of my car at the bag drop at Ka’anapali – the Aloha Spirit that lives within the people who work there.”

Let me introduce you to just one of them – PGA Director of Instruction, David Havens.

When we first arrived at Ka’anapali last month, our games were pretty rusty; we’d played on a few rounds of golf in the last 6 months and were feeling less than confident on the first tee.

So when David asked if we’d like to play with him and one of his students who was getting a playing lesson that day, I was thrilled and terrified at the same time.

But feeling naked on the first tee didn’t stop me from jumping at the chance to watch the 2013 Aloha Section PGA the Teacher of the Year in action.

It was one of the most enjoyable golf rounds I’ve ever played.   David is all about staying positive and having fun on the golf course, starting with the Rock and Roll tunes he has blasting from his iPhone as we teed it off.

His playlist was perfect for swinging and singing and I couldn’t have been more delighted when I stood up on the 13th tee and hit my drive to the sounds of my favorite song of all time - Stairway to Heaven. That was my “come back tomorrow shot”!

After the round was over, we joined David in Roy’s Restaurant in the club house for lunch and talked about his passion for golf and for giving back.   A lot of golfers say they are committed to growing the game, but David is actually doing something about it through Spare for Change -- a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization he launched in March 2011.

Spare for Change recycles 2nd hand golf clubs donated by generous players from all over the world, and puts them in the hands of kids and adults who want to learn, practice and play golf, but can't afford the expensive equipment that typically comes with the game.

The charity also provides instruction, club repair or anything else needed to grow players’ chances of making golf a lifelong passion.

To date, over 8,000 golf clubs have been given to golfer wannabees -- toddlers to grandparents in every state in the US and many developing countries.  Kids start by getting one free club from Spare for Change; adults get 3.  And if David sees them actually use and practice with their clubs, he’ll keep giving them more clubs until they have a full set.

Spare for Change hosts two tournaments every year to help raise money and if you ever have the chance to play in one of them, jump at it!

The Throwback is an invitation-only event where up to 20 players compete with vintage equipment -- persimmon woods, blade golf clubs, “new” balls from 1979-84 and metal spikes.  How cool is that!

Through hole sponsors, Spare for Change raised $2,900 this past April which allowed David to donate money to the Aloha Section for their Junior Fundraiser and support a member of Ka’anapali’s Guest Services team chase his dream to the PGA.

On June 14th David is looking to raise $10-12K by hosting 156 golfers at $100/player at the Ka’anapali Royale Course for the annual Spare for Change Fundraiser.  Mulligans, gimmee strings, throw & kick packs are all for sale.

David will also tee it up to try and drive the green for every team at one of my favorite holes on the Royal - the bunker-infested 7th.

He’ll also be adding a second flag to all of the greens so players will have two putting options.  I wish I could play in that event; I’d buy 100 feet of string so I would never have to putt on those immaculate, but very difficult grainy Bermuda greens. J

Today Spare for Change is about helping new players learn, practice, play and love the game by giving them free equipment, lessons and support, but David’s vision goes much further.

Last year, he launched the Spare for Change Scholarship Program, helping local golfers represent Maui on their college golf teams on the mainland.

Someday he hopes to expand Spare for Change to include soccer, basketball, baseball, etc.  He dreams of having warehouses all over the US where kids from Boys and Girls clubs can afford to shop for sports equipment.

David Havens attributes all he has in life to the game of golf and Spare for Change is his way of giving back to a sport that has given him so much.

“My golfing life started in April 1984 when Petey Johnson, the pro and superintendent at Wytheville Golf Club, gave me a 1-iron from the lost-and-found to use as he taught me the game of golf,” said David. “Through golf I earned a scholarship to Virginia Tech, won the qualifying school to play on the South African Tour, traveled to 50+ countries, got married to my lovely wife Susan who just delivered our first beautiful daughter, live and teach golf on Maui.  I followed my dreams and had a successful golf career, so now I’m all about teaching the game and giving back through Spare for Change.”

So often we hear that golf is a sport for the rich and elite.  It’s refreshing to see someone start to break down that stereotype and grow the game by giving golf clubs to people who never dreamed of having an opportunity to learn and play the greatest game on earth.

But David is also the first to say that he’s had a lot of support along the way, “I couldn’t possibly realize my vision for Spare of Change without the help of a lot a people who share my commitment and dedication to the cause.  Ka’anapali Resort, and in particular, PGA General Manager Ed Kageyama, is extremely supportive, hosting and sponsoring Spare for Change events and allowing me to share what Spare for Change is all about with members and guests, introduce new ideas into our teaching programs to help grow people’s love for the game and donate clubs to deserving students at the academy.”

If you have clubs collecting dust in your basement or garage, how about giving them a second life with Spare for Change? I guarantee that those clubs will receive a lot more tender loving care from their new owners than you’re giving to them right now.

For more information on how you can help grow the game of golf, one club at a time, visit

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ginny Golding Gives Back through Golf -- One Swing at a Time

It never ceases to amaze me the generosity of golfers. Did you know that golf raises more money for charity than all other sports combined?  In January the PGA announced it had surpassed $2 billion in charitable giving - $1 billion of which was raised in just the past 8 years.

But giving back through golf isn't reserved for famous athletes and the professional associations that run major tournaments.  Many golfers give back without most of us ever hearing about it -- golfers like Ginny Golding – the first female to join the PGA of BC.

The Best Golf Coach in BC according to Best of Vancouver Magazine in 2010, Ginny will be celebrating her 65th birthday by playing 65 holes of golf on June 23, 2014 at the University Golf Club UGC.

Through this marathon round of golf, “One Swing at a Time”, Ginny hopes to raise over $65,000 to help educate girls in Kenya and Tanzania through the Canadian Harambee Education Society (CHES).

“When Ginny first approached me with her idea of playing 65 holes on her 65th birthday and raising $65,000 for Harambee, it was automatic for me to give her the green light,” said Michael Mather, General Manager, University Golf Club. “This initiative is a perfect example of who Ginny is as a person and as a golf professional.  Everyone associated with the University Golf Club is in full support of her plan. My job now, is to make certain that Mother Nature cooperates and gives her a nice, dry day on June 23rd!”

One Swing at a Time Details

When: June 23, 2014 starting at sunrise on the 8th hole
Where: University Golf Club, Vancouver, BC
Goal: To raise a minimum of $65,000 through $1,000-hole sponsorships
  • Donations are being accepted through Canada Helps (Choose 1 Swing at a Time from the drop down list of fund options when submitting your donation.) Tax receipts are available on request.
  • Sponsors can be corporations, individuals or groups of friends or family who want to share sponsorship for a hole. Sponsors will be recognized through signage on the holes they sponsor and on a sign near the 18th hole of the UGC clubhouse.
Six years ago, Ginny watched the CBC documentary, ‘Educating Margaret’ – a poignant story about a bright young girl in Kenya who was denied the right to a high school education because her family was too poor to pay for it.  But through the generosity of one Canadian teacher, Lorrie Williams (founder of CHES) and Margaret’s love for learning, that young woman went on to graduate high school and secure a full scholarship to university to study nursing.

Margaret’s story inspired Ginny to volunteer countless hours with CHES and co-chair the Harambee Charity Golf Classic – an annual charity event that has raised over $147,000 for CHES.
Giving the Gift of Education to Young Girls Kakamega Region in Kenya
In many parts of Africa, school fees are more than the total annual income of many rural families. And for those who can scrape together enough money for a high school education, it is generally reserved for the sons.

“There’s an African saying that goes, ‘If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family’,” said Ginny.  “I have seen first-hand how Harambee has changed the lives of thousands of women and I want to help grow those thousands into tens of thousands so we can change whole communities.”

2014 marks Ginny’s 30th year as a golf professional in the province – a milestone that would have many others looking back over their careers, wondering “What if…” -- but not Ginny…

“I have been so fortunate in my life to be able to play golf and be supported by other women in my pursuit of a fulfilling career in this great sport,” shared Ginny. “Now, at 65 I want to give back to girls who do not have the privileges we have here in Canada.  I invite all those who have shared my journey to this milestone to now join me in helping educate women so they can be catalysts for change in their communities.”

Ginny’s passion for the game and for giving back through golf is legendary in BC and I for one will be on the first hole with her when she tees it up for young girls in Africa who desperately need help.

Won't you join me in supporting such a worthy cause?  To volunteer or donate, visit One Swing at a Time or contact Ginny at