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.
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!
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!”
“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…
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.”