The image is near and dear to Crystal Reeves, now Midwest Regional manager with the American Junior Golf Association.
Reeves is assisting National Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior tournament Director Jordan Schneider this week at Bellefonte Country Club. She recalled a junior golf parent once coming to her in tears.
She said, “My daughter is a recipient of an ACE Grant. It’s her dream to play college golf. We had slept in our car at times because we couldn’t afford hotels. I can’t thank you enough.”
Reeves’ voice starts to crack as she relates the story. The 24-year-old knows firsthand what a difference that assistance can make because she benefited from it herself.
The AJGA’s 12-year-old Achieving Competitive Excellence Grant program helps players in financial need to combat the costs of playing a national junior golf schedule.
AJGA Executive Director Stephen Hamblin calls the ACE Grant one of the most important initiatives the AJGA has ever undertaken.
“It is critically important that the AJGA helps give young golfers who may have the talent, but not the resources, the opportunity to compete on a national stage to gain exposure for a college golf scholarship,” Hamblin said in a statement on the organization’s website.
Reeves, a Cherokee from Broken Arrow, Okla., began playing golf at a young age and went on to win the state’s Class 6A high school golf championship by six strokes in 2008. She also enjoyed success while playing “quite a few” AJGA tournaments.
At the same time, costs from membership, entry fees, travels and other golf-related expenses added up for the family. Her father owned a residential chemical lawn care company that became a one-man operation.
“I can’t tell you how great my parents have been,” Reeves said. “It was just a challenge financially. We applied for the ACE Grant and I was accepted. If I hadn’t gotten that opportunity and exposure, I wouldn’t have gotten recruited and wouldn’t have gotten a full scholarship. I would have been working in a pro shop or somewhere else instead of out playing.”
Reeves was recruited by 47 Division I and Division II schools, and ended up at Oral Roberts University. She was a four-time Summit League first team selection and won four college tournaments.
Since 2003, the ACE Grant has provided 568 juniors with 993 grants, combining for 3,937 (tournament) playing opportunities. Recipients reported receiving $12.8 million in college golf scholarships.
“It’s amazing to see what the program has done,” Reeves said.
Last year, the AJGA reimbursed more than $327,000.
Reeves, who earned a degree in finance from Oral Roberts, initially decided to pursue a professional golf career. After a change of heart, she worked as an international accountant for a year before deciding “there was something else I needed to be doing.”
That turned out to be a return to the AJGA, which Reeves had long been passionate about. She was hired full time following a spring internship.
“Last year I ran a few tournaments and assisted on some others,” said Reeves, a self-described workaholic who doesn’t sleep a lot and sometimes forgets to eat.
Now she’s in her first year as manager of the 11-state Midwest Region. It’s a job with considerable travel and vast responsibilities, but Reeves embraces the challenges.
“I love what I’m doing,” said Reeves, who has been the house guest of Steve and Dede Barfield of Ashland during her stay. “I can’t imagine being anywhere other than the AJGA right now.”
Crystal’s brother Nick, 18, recently received a full scholarship to play golf at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.