Junior Golfers receive a boost from Tina Drabble Junior Golf Foundation

Arnold Palmer once wrote, “Golf is deceptively simple, and endlessly complicated. It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is, at the same time, rewarding, and maddening — and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”

Other sports enthusiasts may argue the last point, citing various games of strength, skill or endurance as “the greatest.” Nevertheless, it is in youth where many great athletes are born, and it is up to parents, schools and the community at large to encourage those dreams.

Here in American Samoa, we have aspiring young golfers with skills and talents, which are undeniable. Recently, these young athletes were the recipients of generous support from the Tina Drabble Junior Golf Foundation.

In support of Junior Golf — and in celebration of Tina’s legacy — the Foundation, which bears her name, has donated money and equipment to American Samoa’s Junior Golf Association.

The formal presentation was held on Monday, May 22 at the Golf Course in Iliili. Board member Alofia Afalava spoke on behalf of members of the Foundation, which include Tina’s parents, Tom Drabble and Taalolo Chande Lutu-Drabble, who began the Foundation in her memory. Sandra King-Young and Christinna Lutu-Sanchez also serve on the Foundation board.

Leo Young, the talented young son of Sandra and Peter Young, represented the Junior Golfers at the ceremony.

The Foundation’s gift, which consisted of golf clubs, bags and a $3,000 check, will go a long way toward helping four Junior Golfers and two coaches participate in the Junior World Golf Competition being held in San Diego this summer. 

There to accept the donation were volunteer coaches John Mitchell and Peter Young.  Mitchell noted that the Association is deeply grateful for the funds, as the San Diego tournament is an expensive one. He told Samoa News that it was due to the actions of professional golf instructor Fuga Tolani Teleso, that American Samoa was given a few slots each year, allowing them to participate in the prestigious competition.

The Junior World Golf Competition is an internationally recognized event hosted at Torrey Pines each year, with 15- 17-year-old participants from around the world. Past Junior World Golf Championship winners include Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Woods won division titles there in 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991.

Another division champion from the Junior World Golf competition was American Samoa’s own Tina Drabble. She paved the way with others from American Samoa, such as Angie Langkilde and Frankie Lefiti, who won honors in their age groups.

 According to Ta’alolo, funds raised from local tournaments have enabled the Foundation to donate thousands of dollars on more than one occasion. Those donations were used for airfare and miscellaneous expenses, giving our Junior Golfers the opportunity to represent the Territory in the San Diego competition.

The Foundation has also given $3,000 SAT to help establish a Junior Golf Program in Samoa, with the hope that an inter-island competition between the 2Samoas could be held annually.

In 2015, the Foundation spent over $7,000 for a college student from Tina’s alma mater, New Mexico State University, to live in the Territory for the summer. A senior in NMSU’s Golf Management program, Nicholas (Nick) Andreis gave the Junior Golf Summer Program a real boost that year, with over 60 young people participating throughout the summer under his guidance.

Additionally, according to Ta’alolo, golf clubs, bags and range balls have been purchased for the Junior Golfers. The Foundation has also sponsored teams for tournaments organized by other charitable organizations in the Territory, such as the Lions Club, Rotary, Shriners, Hope House and the American Samoa Cancer Coalition.

TINA DRABBLE & HER LEGACY  

A beloved daughter of American Samoa, Christine “Tina” Michelle Drabble-McCormack, entered the world of golf at the tender age of nine years old, and wound up in the history books of the Territory before she passed away in 2012 at just 41 years of age.

 The cancer, which took her life, never dampened her spirit, though, and all the way to the end, it was her wish to give back to the island community in which she was lovingly raised.

She was an honor student who had learned the game of golf from her uncle Fuga Tolani Teleso, and her first foray in the world of competitive golf came early. She was just 10 when she represented the Territory in the Junior Golf World Competition in San Diego, where she placed 2nd in World and 1st in International.

The following years would see her representing American Samoa as the flag carrier for the Territory in the 15-17 age group, where she won 2nd and 3rd place world trophies. To these honors she added an additional 4th place and two 1st place International trophies in Junior Golf.

After high school, Tina was accepted at Stanford, Brigham Young University, and New Mexico state due to her sterling four year, 4.0 academic record. She chose New Mexico State for its exceptional golf program, and was captain of her golf team while at the home of the Aggies.

In 1985, she became a member of American Samoa’s Team at the South Pacific Mini-Games held in the Cook Islands, where her team took the gold. Two years later, at the age of 15, she participated in another gold-winning American Samoa team, this time at the South Pacific Games held in New Caledonia. That same year, 1987, she also won the Individual Silver Medal.

Not content to rest, Tina went on to win the Fiji Ladies Open in Suva and the Fiji Ladies Classic at Deuba three years in a row: 1989, 1990 and 1991.  She was the youngest to have won three consecutive years and broke several records.

Before turning pro in 1996, Tina participated in the 1996 Amateur Links, finishing second to Natalie Gulbie, who went on to become one of the LPGA’s top golfers.   After joining the ranks of the Ladies Professional Golf Association herself, Tina continued to distinguish herself on the links.

In 2007, a year after she was diagnosed with cancer, Tina was selected to be American Samoa’s flag carrier in the 2007 South Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa, where she culminated her career by winning the Individual Gold Medal for American Samoa.

She continues on in the history books as the only American Samoan female to attain membership in the LPGA, and her life and achievements were entered into the Congressional record in July 2012 by then Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin.

A Fono Concurrent Resolution regarding Tina was also entered into the legislative records of the Territory.

Tina Drabble’s life continues to be an inspiration to young golfers, and as one of American Samoa’s iconic athletes, she left a legacy any parent would be proud of.

Following her death, her parents Tom Drabble and Ta’alolo Chande Lutu Drabble established the foundation to carry forth her legacy and her love of the game. Dedicated to supporting and promoting golf among the youth, the Tina Drabble Junior Golf Foundation was created in 2013.

With monies raised, it has been able to donate funds to help the Junior Golfers participate in the World Junior Golf Competition, where Tina won several awards in every category over the years.

 Although she lost her six-year battle with melanoma cancer in July 2012, Tina’s life continues to inspire young athletes in the game she loved. She will be remembered each year through the Foundation set up to support Junior Golf, and American Samoa’s 5th Annual Memorial Golf Tournament, sponsored by the Junior Golf Association, will be held on July 15 this year.

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