In April 2010, the South Florida PGA Foundation created Smiling Fore Life, a program encouraging SFPGA Professionals to visit local children’s hospitals weekly. These visits help bring golf into the lives of children who may be experiencing hardship, and it allows them an opportunity to forget about their challenges and enjoy a pleasurable new activity.
A recent success story comes from our original location, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. Joel, a 15 year old young man, had become a regular in the weekly program, always excited when it was golf time. After the SFPGA Foundation installed a putting green at the hospital last fall, this young man received a putter as a gift and could often be found practicing his putting, even during non-golf times.
Dave Cunliffe, PGA Teaching Professional at the Don Law Golf Academy, visits Joe DiMaggio weekly, and noticed that Joel had been absent for a few weeks. When he inquired about Joel, Dave learned that he had undergone a heart transplant and was not able to participate due to his recovery. Dave understood that when he was able to, Joel would be back at golf, and wanted to do something that would cheer him up and help him to get excited and ready to play. Dave decided to put together a set of clubs for the young man.
After a few weeks, while Joel still wasn’t healthy enough to participate in the class, he would go and watch his friends participate, just to be around the game he was learning to love. While presenting Joel with his new set of clubs, Dave was able to speak with him about PGA Tour Professional Erik Compton, who has successfully undergone 2 heart transplants, and is now a successful Tour Professional.
On April 23, Joel met Dave at Plantation Preserve Golf Course for his first outdoor golf lesson. Also on hand for the day, were a few signed gifts from Erik Compton, who wrote Joel an encouraging message about staying strong.
During his lesson, Joel built on the skills that he had learned at Smiling Fore Life, including aiming and distance control. He was also able to see how the real green differed from the hospital’s practice green in length, speed, and undulation. Dave and Joel stayed on the practice putting green to work on putting and chipping skills. After a few reminders about posture, grip, and alignment, Joel went to work. He was able to build on his consistency and saw improved ball control after only a short amount of time. “Joel has a real talent for the game, and was able to adjust quickly to the new surroundings” stated Dave. When asked what he thought about being at the course compared to his Smiling Fore Life lessons, Joel said “it’s a lot bigger!”
Even though the sun was strong, Joel kept a smile on his face for the entire lesson. He’s feeling healthy and loving the ability to have a golf club back in his hands. Before he left for the day, Joel asked his dad when he could come back to the course for more practice. One day a week just isn’t enough!
Because of the South Florida PGA Foundation’s Smiling Fore Life program, Joel has found a new focus for his rehab, golf. Through this program, he has also found a new role model in Erik Compton, who has been through similar health struggles and has enjoyed success as a professional athlete.
The Smiling Fore Life program has been able to impact juniors and their families, while giving them an enjoyable experience to look forward to every week. For more information on the program, please visit our website here. If you would like to be involved with or make a contribution to the Smiling Fore Life program, please contact Meredith Schechter at email@example.com.
About the South Florida PGA Foundation
The South Florida PGA Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded to support the South Florida community, with a focus on junior golf, education, scholarships and charitable gifting. The South Florida PGA Foundation falls under the direction of the South Florida PGA, a not-for-profit organization comprised of over 1,600 men and women PGA Professionals serving as the experts in business and the game of golf.