Youth on Course Scholarship winner Jaime Saliba of Berkley and Shrine High School in Royal Oak started playing golf, she said, sort of by accident.
Jaime and her mother, Claudia, took her father James to a driving range for a Father’s Day gift when Jamie was in the sixth grade. The sort-of-accident part is that at that point she had not considered playing the game. It was a family outing for her father.
The not-so-much accident part is that day she met Francine Pegues, a long-time supporter of golf who is well known for her guidance of the Golf 4 Girls Program at Belle Isle Golf Range, and for urging girls to get involved in the game.
“It was the happiest accident ever,” Jaime said. “I’ve loved the game ever since.”
Saliba, 17, is one of 20 high school graduates from across the nation chosen for the $296,000 in scholarship funds this year. Since the inception of Youth on Course in 2008, 280 YOC members have been awarded financial support totaling $2 million.
The average GPA of the 2021 group is 4.39 and Jaime is among the 11 who have plans to try competitive golf at the collegiate level. In the fall she is attending St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., where they have open tryouts for the team and she will study political science and criminal justice.
“Golf’s always going to be something I do,” she said. “I enjoy playing golf with my father and his entire family golfs. I know you can use golf in the business world, and I want to go into law and it can be a big part of that.”
After her accidental start in sixth grade, Jaime attended clinics, practiced, and played with her father and as a sophomore in high school found out her high school was starting a girl’s golf team. She played as one of the top two players on the team all three years. She also joined Youth on Course at a coach’s urging.
“Youth on Course is a big factor in why I continued to play golf,” she said. “I was involved in other sports as well, especially figure skating. It was $15 per session for that and I would go once or twice a week. Youth on Course made it so I could play a bunch of golf courses for $5 each.
“It has definitely made me a better player, made our team better and is a big reason why we were able to win our regional title and advance to state. Golf is expensive, and our team is just a bunch of kids who go out and enjoy it and get to do it for $5 with Youth on Course. We are playing against teams that have golfers from private clubs with private coaches that can cost $100 an hour.”
Jaime was stunned when she learned she won a scholarship.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting it at all,” she said. “It’s a national scholarship and there are several amazing people who deserved this. I was in shock when I got the news. It’s such an honor to be chosen and so amazing to win this award and it’s going to have a huge impact on me.”
Youth on Course in Michigan is administered by the Golf Association of Michigan Foundation. Students and parents can learn more at GAM.org. Youngsters ages 6-18 can play at participating golf courses for $5 or less. Jamie is one of the current 3,280 (as of May 10) Youth on Course members in Michigan where the participating courses are subsidized a negotiated rate through the charitable funds donated to or raised by the foundation.
Jaime recommends youngsters try golf and join Youth on Course, and not just because of the scholarship opportunities.
“Even if you are not playing in high school it’s a great program just to get the chance to play,” she said. “It’s so helpful. You can go out and have fun and not have to give up on something just because you can’t afford it.”
Michael Lowe, vice-president of programs for Youth on Course, said pursuing higher education, much like the game of golf, shouldn’t hinge on the financial burden it places on young people.
“These 20 students are among the brightest and we, along with our scholarship donors, are proud to help them continue to work towards their dreams on and off the golf course.”
Photo Credit Courtesy of Mike Mulholland – MLIVE