INTER-CLUB CHALLENGE CHAIRMAN AND TIF STUDENT SHOW WHAT INTRODUCTIONS CAN DO
by Steven Kissinger
The Immokalee Foundation, which is gearing up for its annual Inter-Club Challenge golf tournament May 5, has found that introducing students to role models, new activities and the world beyond their doorsteps is invaluable. It always leads to unexpected benefits and outcomes that make the students’ futures so much brighter.
Sometimes it’s downright surprising. Gerardo Lugo is an 18-yearold college freshman. When he was about 10 years old, a friend invited him to a First Tee program, which teaches golf to kids. He wasn’t keen on the idea. “I didn’t think golf was my cup of tea,” Lugo said. “Ever since then I wanted to go back and play every day.”
Lugo found out about The Immokalee Foundation through his involvement with First Tee. So when he reached seventh grade, Lugo applied and was selected for TIF’s Take Stock in Children scholarship program. “I was lucky enough to receive a mentor, too, and Don O’Neill has helped me get where I am now,” said Lugo, who is pursuing a degree in professional golf management at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Some years after his First Tee experiences, Lugo began playing in The Immokalee Foundation’s Charity Classic Pro-Am and Inter-Club Challenge tournaments, getting tips from top professional and amateur golfers, meeting successful business and professional adults, and further fueling his love for the game.
This year’s Inter-Club Challenge takes place on the eastern courses at Bonita Bay Naples, a superior venue benefiting the 10th annual event. “The courses are tremendous and full of wildlife,” said Bonita Bay resident Chuck Campbell, who chaired the Inter-Club Challenge for several years. “The tournament is a great way to increase our exposure to various clubs throughout Southwest Florida and for such a great cause – the kids in Immokalee.”
For the first time, the winning foursome at the Inter-Club Challenge will receive free entry into TIF’s November Charity Classic Pro-Am tournament, worth $20,000.
Golf is now part of Lugo’s weekly volunteer and work life, as well. He works part time in the cart barn at Wildcat Run in Estero, although he said he doesn’t consider it work at all because it’s so much fun. He also manages to devote time each week to teaching 5- to 8-year-olds now in First Tee at Alico Family Golf. “They’re kids just learning the game, and they don’t know the fundamentals,” Lugo said. “So they try to hit the ball, and they miss all the time. So you help them and they hit it and their faces light up.”
Inter-Club Challenge 2016 Chairman David Steele also grew up with the game; his father was the pro at Audubon Country Club in Naples for 28 years. After graduating from FGCU, the younger Steele played professionally for five years on an international scale, with tournaments in Scotland, Holland, Germany and Morocco, as well as “up and down the eastern US seaboard,” he said. Steele now plays most often at Quail Creek Country Club and will be among golfers from all over the area at Bonita Bay for this year’s Inter- Club Challenge.
Steele learned about The Immokalee Foundation through a friend, TIF’s board president Joseph Zednik. “My wife, Joshlyn, and I wanted to help out a bit, to be a part of the students’ lives,” Steele said. So he became involved in TIF’s event this year and is excited to share his experience, knowledge and love of the game.
The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about TIF, its signature events, volunteering as a mentor, making a donation, including TIF in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239.430.9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.
Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at email@example.com.
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