Elite junior golfers opt for homestay instead of hotel during busy competitive season
June 16, 2018
For elite junior golfers, it's common to spend more time on the road than at home during the summer season. That's certainly true for Tracy Lee, Alden Wallace and Abbey Daniel, who arrived in Park City on Sunday, June 10, for the American Junior Golf Association's Rolex Girls Junior Championship – a 72-hole invitational featuring the organization's top competitors. Lee hails from Seoul, while Wallace and Daniel come from Shreveport and Covington,Louisiana, respectively.
"I'm home, like, three days in June," Daniel said.
Once summer starts, the girls participate in back-to-back tournaments until the school year begins, when Lee and Wallace will go to college (at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Louisiana State University respectively, where they have both signed letters of intent to play), and Daniel will finish her senior year of high school at Archbishop Hannon High School in Covington.
Because their parents couldn't join them for the championship, the golfers opted to stay with David and Eveleen Babich, a retired couple who live with their cat Bruiser at their house in Promontory.
All three of the guest golfers said a home-stay is at least a little closer to the real thing than the string of hotels they normally stay at.
So on Monday morning the Babiches and the golfers prepared for their first real meal together – a breakfast out on the tan cement and stone deck.
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Just before 10 a.m., David started making scrambled eggs, as the sounds of the Golf Channel's chatter drifted in from the living room. The golfers emerged from downstairs, where their rooms are located, dressed for the day of golfing, and hovered around the kitchen island before a mule deer in the back yard caught their attention.
"We have deer, elk, porcupines and red foxes," David explained.
He and Eveleen worked for Marriott for more than 30 years each ("We're lifers," Eveleen said), and had staked out a plot in Promontory in 2007, which they retired to in 2012.
Both avid golfers, the two volunteered to help when Promontory announced that the AJGA tournament was coming to its Pete Dye Canyon Course, and were then approached about hosting the three golfers.
David said he and Eveleen agreed to host the young athletes mostly because the couple had the space in their house, and it seemed like a good cause.
"I think it turned out to be a privilege to do it," Eveleen said. "Because what we've found is that sometimes the girls' families just don't have the time to be able to travel, because they only have so much vacation time or they don't have the means. So it was just a fun way to be able to give back."
She said it is also is nice to play a part in the AJGA Girls Junior Championship, because the tournament typically calls The Furman Golf Club, in Greenville, South Carolina, home. This year is is the first in which the tournament has come to Utah.
It was the couple's first time offering their home up as a home-stay venue, and it was Daniel's and Wallace's first times as guests at a home stay – which was largely because their parents were unable to travel to the tournament. It was Lee's second home-stay experience, after staying with a family in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Kathy Whitworth Invitational in March. That stay was such a positive experience she thought it would be fun to do it again.
According to Liz Powell, an AJGA spokesperson, the tournament provides home-stay opportunities at each of its 120 annual events.
To maintain some semblance of normalcy on the road takes planning, the golfers said.
"I bring my workout gear and stuff, so I have that to warm up with throughout the week," said Williams. "Then I have a journal that kind of keeps me organized."
Daniel said she balances life on the road with routines.
"I always pack the same snacks," she said. "I always pack the same everything, so you're used to it."
Lee said she has been accustomed to traveling for years now.
Though she calls Seoul home, she moved around a lot when she was young. She learned to play golf in Malaysia and Taiwan, and moved to Florida three years ago to sharpen her skills.
"I went to Bishop's Gate Golf Academy," she said.
"No way!" Daniel said. "I went to Gary Gilchrist (Golf Academy)."
The two academies are a 30-minute drive from each other in Central Florida.
Daniel and Wallace both grew up in Louisiana. Though they come from opposite sides of the state, they became close friends from traveling to golf tournaments together.
"In the summer, it's basically every week," Wallace said of her tournament schedule. "It's gotten to the point where when you travel so much, it doesn't feel weird when I'm not home; it feels weird when I am home."
"It feels weird when you're home for two weeks and you're like, 'What do I do?'" she said.
By 10 a.m., the girls and the Babiches had taken their seats around the table, passing around the plates of fruit, banana bread, and the scrambled eggs David had made.
Eveleen and David asked the girls about their training – how much they practice (two three-hour sessions a day), and how many coaches they have (about five each, including physical therapists and sports psychologists).
At the end of the tournament the girls will disband, with Lee going to a tournament in Tennessee, Daniel going to one in Indiana and Wallace traveling to a tournament in Houston. But for the moment the golfers polished off the mixed berries and Canadian bacon.
"Does anyone want that last piece of bread?" Wallace asked, eyeing a lonely slice of the banana and blueberry bread Eveleen had made.
David picked up the plate and tipped it toward her.
"All yours," he said.