This year at the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic, multiple events ahead of the tournament have followed traditions past. On Monday, the 13th annual Future of Women’s Golf Pro-Am, where 26 high school female golfers participated with Symetra Tour members, was followed by the Danielle Downey Memorial Scholarship presentation ceremony. The recipient: Michaela Eichas, who received $2,500 and selected House of Mercy for the $2,500 donation that is part of the scholarship.
“Our family feels lucky to have a way to carry on Danielle’s legacy and it is not something that everyone gets a chance to have. We appreciate it has allowed Rochester to continue to have a golf tournament here because it is such a popular sport in the area. From the time that Danielle was playing to now, it really has grown significantly.,” said Erica Setzer, one of Danielle Downey’s sisters. “(Danielle) and Mike Vadala started that years ago so of all the events, that is still one of the favorites of our family because that is the one that makes us feel most connected to her because that is something that she started.”
Participants, as well as scholarship recipients from years past have come back to be involved in the event, such as Micah McDonnell and Vanessa Fulmore. The latter not only continues to come back and be involved this week but has been inspired by her parents to grow the game herself and create more opportunities for the younger generation, as she started the 2020 Golf Academy.
“A couple of years ago I started my own golf academy, 2020 golf academy. Our slogan is ‘helping girls see a brighter future, one swing at a time,’” said Fulmore. “We take golf right into their communities in a non-intimidating way. You don’t need to have the equipment or the skills. We tell them ‘it is okay,’ we are going to learn and do it together. Through five years we have introduced over 100 girls to the game of golf. Of those 100 girls, we have about 30 who are seeking opportunities in continuing to play. It is an awesome opportunity that they wouldn’t otherwise have and I thank my Danielle Downey scholarship a couple years ago to help kick start that process.”
Yesterday, the festivities continued in the afternoon with the Kinecta Celebrity Golf Invitational. One of the many unique aspects of the invitational is to honor the community workers who have helped the world through such an unprecedented year. The tournament chose to honor healthcare workers and school employees because of the extraordinary circumstances that they faced during the pandemic. The representatives who played were there to magnify the fact that all healthcare workers and all school employees receive free admission to the tournament all week long.
Each team competing consisted of a celebrity, a Symetra Tour professional, a media representative and healthcare worker or school employee. The celebrities were Dan Jansen (1994 Olympic Gold Medalist, Speed Skating), Steve Tasker, Martin Biron, John Wildhack and Elvio Fernandes. Sarah Hoffman (Saline, Michigan) had the opportunity to compete in both the Future of Women’s Golf Pro-Am and Kinecta Celebrity Golf Invitational. She represented one of the many nurses who fought COVID-19 last year, as she returned to Michigan to be a nurse during the season’s break due to the pandemic.
“The celebrity pro-am is always such a great event. I can’t give enough credit to Mike, it shows how much he cares about growing women’s golf and giving back to the local community,” said Hoffman. “It was so special that he honored nurses and teachers for this event and invited them to come play after such a trying year. I hope a lot of nurses, teachers, first responders take advantage of the free admission and come cheer us on this week.
“I would tell high schoolers, that they don’t have to have all the answers yet, we ask a lot of 17/18-year-old young women to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, but I would say take one day at a time and follow your heart. It will all work out how it is supposed to in the end.”
August Kim Looking Forward to New York Swing
August Kim (St. Augustine, Florida) is making her fourth appearance at the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic this week in Rochester, N.Y. In four starts, she has claimed two top-five finishes including a tie for third result in 2019.
“Rochester is one of my favorite stops all year. The food is awesome, people are so great. I still talk to a couple of the families I played in a pro-am with in years past so it’s always a great feeling to roll in,” said Kim. “I feel very comfortable on the course, it fits my eye. Not to say that it isn’t a difficult course or a challenge, I just have good memories here and I enjoy playing here. I don’t know if it is because I grew up playing in New York or if it is just the roots and the kind of courses that I am used to. I just enjoy playing here and I know that I can, so it is always great.”
Kim is the maiden four-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) All-American Scholar in Purdue University women’s golf history. In 2016, she won the Big Ten Conference Championship individual title and set the tournament 54-hole scoring record in the process. The following year, the two-time First Team All-Big Ten performer received Purdue’s Big Ten Medal of Honor. In 2021 so far, Kim claimed her season-best finish of a tie for 20th at the IOA Golf Classic presented by RP Funding.
“Right now, my goal is every week is a fresh opportunity. Coming off the last couple weeks and, you know, the year as a whole, it is a unique chance to really challenge myself to take every day as a fresh day and new start and why not,” said Kim. “What has really helped me mentally that in the past couple weeks I have been working on is not letting myself get too wrapped up in my current emotions. It is so easy to get wrapped up in a game like golf, no matter what state I’m in, whether I’m confident or afraid or worried, it is all about just rolling with the continued forward momentum and not letting the things on the side sway me.”
Kim is teeing off for the first round tomorrow at 1:59 p.m. ET at Brook-Lea Country Club.