ELON, N.C. – An incoming member of the Elon University women’s golf team, Haley Bookholdt was recently honored as the female recipient of the 2017 USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award.
The USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award honors one male and one female junior golfer annually who demonstrate leadership, character and community service through their involvement with the Leadership Links program, a joint initiative created by the USGA and AJGA in 2005 to further develop junior golfers through volunteerism.
“I am both honored and humbled to be the female recipient of the USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award,” Bookholdt said. “Giving back through the game, in a way that also has the opportunity to grow the game, has been an especially rewarding experience. It is tremendously gratifying to know how many young people will be touched by my efforts.”
Bookholdt and male recipient Grant Fairbairn of Orinda, California, will be honored on June 27 in Ringoes, New Jersey, at the Polo Golf Dinner of Champions. Additionally, they will each receive tickets to a future U.S. Open and automatic entry into the 2017 Polo Golf Junior Classic, one of the world’s most prestigious junior golf events, at The Ridge at Back Brook in Ringoes.
Bookholdt fell in love with golf at a young age, but she didn’t always share that passion with anyone outside her family. Growing up in rural New Jersey and playing at Old York Country Club, many of her friends did not know about her love for golf. So it became a special bond for her and her family.
Bookholdt and her dad grew an affinity for the game together, as he caddied for her at many events and would practice with her. Traveling to tournaments with her dad was an experience she said she took for granted.
“I was lucky that my family could afford to provide me with these opportunities,” Bookholdt said. “When I was younger, I had no concept of the sacrifices being made in terms of time and money by my family.”
She realized that many other kids were not lucky enough to share in those opportunities, so she started fundraisers to help The First Tee of Greater Trenton amplify its efforts. Her first fundraiser in 2015 raised more than $39,000, and she has raised more than $55,000 in total.
“Their mission resonated with me, and I knew this would be a good place to direct my efforts,” Bookholdt said. “The First Tee gives kids who would otherwise never have the chance an introduction to the game of golf and everything that comes with it.”
Bookholdt continued her efforts through the AJGA’s Leadership Links program, putting together “Let Her Rip!”, a Birdies for Charity campaign. With pledges for every birdie made in her official tournaments, she raised an additional $17,000 for The First Tee of Greater Trenton and the AJGA’s Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant. The ACE Grant provides financial assistance to young men and women who aspire to earn a college golf scholarship through competitive junior golf.
“Golf truly has an unbelievable ability to bring people together,” Bookholdt said. “Giving back through the game is especially fulfilling. It is my hope that providing kids from under-served communities with these experiences will encourage them to dream bigger, set higher goals and have the courage to pursue them.”
Bookholdt competed in some of the top junior golf events around the country, which included winning the Women’s Club Championship at the Old York Country Club in Chesterfield, N.J. She also has two International Junior Golf Tour (IJGT) championship titles under her belt and competed in two USGA Junior Championships. Those included the 2014 US Girl’s Junior and the 2015 Women’s US Amateur in Portland. Bookholdt also placed in the top-10 at the 2015 Trusted Choice Big I National Championship. She also won the 2015 Peggy Kirk Bell Girl’s Junior in Pinehurst, N.C., shooting a final round of 70 and won in a playoff.