PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – One of the last events on the calendar at the Rose Festival is the Cambia Portland Classic, the longest-running stop on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour.
At the Children’s Course in Gladstone, they are breaking barriers one swing at a time. First Tee, a youth development organization, is working at the course to introduce the sport to low and middle-income kids.
“If they want to play, there shouldn’t be any reason why they shouldn’t be able to do just that,” Justin Ratte, First Tee program director, said. “Some are really excited to come out, some are really reserved and a little nervous.”
But after that first week, Ratte says they begin to see a spark in the kids.
He says the program helps them learn how to overcome challenges, deal with adversity, appreciate diversity and set goals.
Ella Deschaine was 10 years old when she first walked onto the course in Gladstone.
“I remember being super nervous, not knowing anything about golf and knowing no one,” Deschaine said. “My dad signed me up for some girl’s golf classes, which is where I first fell in love with the game and really started.”
Six years later, the Central Catholic sophomore placed fifth in the state high school tournament and is one of Oregon’s top up-and-coming golfers.
“My 10-year-old self would never think I could shoot even par,” Deschaine said.
The whole program is funded by private donations. Last year, Rose Festival sponsor Cambia Health Solutions cut a check for $10,000.
“We could not accomplish our mission without Cambia, the Cambia of Portland Classic and their support has been instrumental in the success that we have been able to do out here,” Ratte said.
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