It was a rare Saturday get-together not pre-empted by a junior golf tournament somewhere. Happily, by 3:00 pm the sun had pushed the wedge of storm clouds beyond the crest of the dry southern hills and bathed the putting green in light and color.
Nine youngsters in middle and high school competed in the contest. About half were Junior Golfers with experience in tournament play. They were joined by friends and siblings who wanted a chance to "Beat the Junior!"
However it was a Junior, Grace Chen, the only girl in Saturday's contest, who won despite occasional teasing from the boys.
"Oh let Grace putt that!" fellow Junior Eddy Lai mock-pleaded as two balls came to rest side-by-side. With aplomb, Grace set a ball marker and made her shot. "Don't miss!" called another boy after she swung and the ball rolled smartly around the lip of the cup and farther onto the green.
Most of the comments were along the lines of "Wow!" or "Great!" as the youngsters followed the lead of their parents and coaches in encouraging each other. Courteous silence replaced teen-age goofiness while each player concentrated in the moment prior to striking the ball.
That moment of focus draws on all their training and practice to achieve success. Some of the Juniors shared their thoughts during those critical moments before the swing.
"I'm thinking about the break and the speed, like the heel and the turn of the putt," Andrew Wong said. His advice would be to "concentrate on speed and try not to hit it too hard."
Eddy Lai said it was important to set one's mind towards winning. "During chipping, I think about how to land it, also the slope and speed of the green, and the lie of my ball," he said.
Andy Zhou said "I try not to think about anything. It just clutters my mind, like a distraction."
If a ball were to go wrong anyway, Brian Chin had advice on improving. "I see what I did wrong, and I take a few swings and see if my club face is wrong or not, and try not to make the same mistake again."
Parents said the casual contest was important to help their kids reconnect with each other and to play just for fun.
"The children have known each other for a long time,"commented Lisa Wong, mother of Junior Golfer Andrew Wong. "It's a nice thing to let them all grow up as friends together."
"Our events follow their tournament schedule," explained Ni Eileen Chen, mother of Grace Chen, also a Junior Golfer. "They play tournaments at different levels. Here they play together. They have fun, they laugh at each other!"
The game and post-game pizza meeting keep the players aware of the value of their work in raising funds for cancer research and helping kids recover from cancer treatment through sport, she added.
"It not only allows kids to have fun and play together, it's also an opportunity for kids to learn golf is not just for fun and your own achievement, but can be used to help others," explained William Yao's mother Sara (?).
Birdie for ALL relies on youngsters who don't play golf competitively at all .
Timoteo Cruz explained the technique for setting up the putting course correctly at a treatment facility. When he positioning the putting greens, he's thinking about "rolling them out in the right order and making sure they stay flat."
For two years Michael Wong and Robert, Brian and Michael Chin have helped coach kids at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, and Camp Okizu in the Sierra Foothills.
Their parents, Robert and Patricia Cruz, and Lynn Chin were honored along with Coach Roger Pineda and his wife Jessica for their hard work in bringing putting greens to pediatric cancer facilities for more than two years.
Patricia Cruz, a professional graphic designer and event planner, created the Gracious Life Foundation brochures and organized activities. Robert Cruz drove the equipment to the events and guided his sons in setting up the course.
Lynn Chin drove her sons to tournaments where they raised funds for research and drove carloads of volunteers to Packard Hospital and Camp Okizu. All were honored with a beautiful floral centerpiece created especially for them by GLF Board Member.
Here are some photos taken at the event.