The Danielle Downey Effect
July 12, 2019
The Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic begins this week. We asked four tournament staffers to tell us how their involvement helped shape them professionally and personally. Here is what they shared.
Playing in the Danielle Downey Future of Women’s Golf Pro-Am1 was an experience like no other. When I was in high school, the Pro-Am was in conjunction with the LPGA at Locust Hill. It was truly amazing to see how many of Danielle Downey’s friends on the LPGA Tour wanted to stick around Rochester for another day to participate in a pro-am with local amateurs and high school players.
My first year playing in the event, I was paired with Danielle. As a 9th grader, I was shy and intimidated to play with other amateurs and Danielle, arguably the best female golfer from Rochester. Danielle made me feel so comfortable, and we had a blast riding in the cart together talking about golf, what I wanted to study in college and everything in between. I left that day feeling like I had a friend on the LPGA Tour.
As I got older and played each year in the Pro-Am, I consistently referred back to Danielle’s encouragement and kindness and wanted to ensure the younger girls would feel the same way I had. Talking to and encouraging the new girls to make sure they had a positive experience continued the cycle of paying it forward, and they could share and cherish the experiences of this special and unique event. Now in its 13th year, I’m honored to be the one to oversee the Reliant Future of Women’s Golf Monday Pro-Am.
The event truly embodies the notion to “pay it forward.” Not only do the pros willingly sacrifice their time to practice so they can play in the Pro-Am and act as a mentor and a friend to the high school girls, but the high school girls feel inspired to get involved with other aspects of the tournament. This year, for example, the majority of the high school girls have signed up to volunteer during tournament week , many assisting with the Junior Clinic we host on Tuesday. Growing the game in the Rochester community is especially important because we’ve had such an incredible golf history here, and now it’s up to us locally to continue to pay it forward. Using golf as the channel to connect our sponsors, our volunteers, our high school participants and the community is truly remarkable and it’s what helps make Rochester so close-knit.
I’m delighted to be involved with the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic as tournament personnel for the fourth year, and I encourage those who haven’t gotten involved just yet to register as volunteer, to consider donating to the Danielle Downey Scholarship fund, or to simply attend the event. Help us not only grow the game, but continue to pay it forward in our hometown!
The growth of my game from high school to the collegiate level, now at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, seems to mirror my own personal growth and my growth as a student. Golf relates to my life as I believe in the same principles as the sport: integrity, hard work and perseverance.
As a Section V golfer, it became quite apparent that girls of color, other than myself, are virtually absent from the game of golf. My objective became not only to grow the game, but to grow the game for ALL girls, of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds, and to change lives one swing at a time. My experience with the Danielle Downey Future of Women’s Golf Pro-Am has impacted my view on golf by deepening my love for this lifelong game and by giving me an opportunity to share my love for the game with the younger generation. The honor of winning the Danielle Downey scholarship2, along with an overwhelming flood of equipment donations, have allowed me to share the game of golf with girls who otherwise might not have had the chance to learn.
In addition to working with my golf academy, it has been my pleasure to serve as an intern for this year’s Danielle Downey tournament. It has provided me with an alternate view of and respect for all that is required behind the scenes to plan a golf event. Most eye-opening is the purse disparity between men’s and women’s tournaments. What an honor to be affiliated with a tournament committed to raising the bar. Under the direction of Mike Vadala, we will be increasing our purse this year from $150,000 to $175,000.
The way I continued to grow and evolve in my love for the game, from High School to College to Interning with a nationally known and respected golf program, proves that golf can truly be a lifelong sport.
When I was a Junior in high school and able to participate in the 2016 Danielle Downey Future of Women’s Golf Pro-Am, I started to fall in love with the game. In my eyes, the Pro-Am was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play alongside a Women’s professional golfer.
I was lucky to receive an invite to play again the next year as a Senior, and I fell in
love with the game even more. After playing varsity golf in high school and being a part of the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic, I knew golf was my passion.
I decided to attend St. John Fisher College to continue my education with a major in Sport Management and a minor in Marketing, and also to play golf at the Division III level for the Cardinals. In my freshman year of college, I reached out to tournament chairman Mike Vadala to see if there was a possibility for me to work for the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic, because I just loved the environment of the tournament. I received a position where I organized the Danielle Downey Future of Women’s Golf Pro-Am, and was an active participant on the tournament’s marketing committee.
At the 2018 Press Conference, I spoke about my journey and passion about golf, and was fortunate to meet Ron Pluta, General Chairman of the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. I reached out to him and the Championship Director of the 2019 KitchenAid Senior PGA, where I landed as a Volunteer Operations Assistant. This opportunity– being able to work on behalf of the PGA of America Staff– was like no other. I enjoyed every minute of both the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic and the Sr. PGA, and knew that by the end of each that working in the golf industry was what I wanted to do.
I was extremely honored to be a recipient of the Danielle Downey Scholarship. This allowed me to experience various study abroad experiences, research and extended education opportunities. It also allowed me to donate $2,500 to a charity of my choice, The Ronald McDonald House, as a way to give back to pediatric cancer patients and their families, with whom I have worked for numerous years.
It was this scholarship and the platform of the Danielle Downey Future of Women’s Golf Pro-Am tournament that pushed me to reach out to the organization to become an intern. I participated in the Pro-Am for four years of my high school career. I played with a different professional each year and gained contacts and experiences I wouldn’t have in any other tournament.
I wanted to help coordinate the tournament that helped set the foundation for my professional and educational career. It provided me with so much, and I am so proud to be a part of creating opportunities for other young women. Although my college major is environmental law, I am still actively involved with golf tournaments and this tournament specifically as I hold it near and dear to my heart.
As an intern, I am avidly involved in the Women’s Forum presented by The Summit Federal Credit Union, held during tournament week. This event is a networking and empowerment event for local Rochester executives and young professionals. There is a speaker panel comprised of influential women in business who speak to our attendees about the forum topic, which this year is “Educate her, Empower her.”
This event is very important to the Rochester community as it directly incorporates the women in our business community. We have extended our reach to various business sectors this year to include executives from various organizations. The networking and table conversation give our powerful women a platform to share their ideas with others, and to empower each other. I love working on the Women’s Forum and thoroughly enjoy the speakers’ messages year after year.
- Formerly the Danielle Downey Future of Women’s Golf Pro-Am, The Reliant Future of Women’s Golf Monday Pro-Am is a unique event on the LPGA Symetra Tour. Each team is made up of a Symetra Tour pro, three amateur players and a Rochester-area high school female golfer.
- The Danielle Downey Scholarship, made in Danielle’s memory, awards $2,500 to a high school senior who is a Section V golfer, and donates an additional $2,500 to the winner’s charity of choice.