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Ben Mikesell | The Journal Gazette
Anna Feldman hits the ball out of the bunker at Chestnut Hill during the Women’s City Golf Championship.

For girls, partnership provides opportunities

A dream come true, kinda. That’s what this was, right?

That was Sunday morning and the first tee at Chestnut Hills and, holy gee, look who Anna Feldman is playing with. It’s Karley Dobis, the defending women’s city champion. There are people hanging around (A gallery? Say what?).

And Anna Feldman is here because she’s only four shots off the lead in a tournament she never imagined playing until the Fort Wayne Women’s Golf Association and the Lifetime Sports Academy partnered to waive the entry fee for four LSA golfers so they could play in the women’s city, too.

And then Dobis steps up and stripes one down the fairway, and suddenly Feldman’s knees are water.

“Yeah, I was nervous,” Feldman says later.

Thus the “kinda” part, but it’s the dream-come-true part you want to pay attention to here. It’s the dream-come-true part that was the spur for the FWWGA taking an idea last fall to Rick Hemsoth of LSA: How can we get young girls more into golf?

How about inviting them to play in the biggest annual tournament for women?

“We’re trying to promote women’s golf in Fort Wayne, and that’s why we sponsor the city tournament to begin with,” says Sylvia Gross, president of the FWWGA. “And then several members and I were talking that it would be nice to get more young girls involved and nurture their interest in golf.”

And, well, one thing led to another. Hemsoth instituted a series of tournaments this spring to enable his LSA students to accrue points, with the idea that the top point-getters would get the FWWGA sponsorships in the women’s city tournament.

And that’s how, this past weekend, Feldman, Lydia Baldwin, Kylee Calloway and Haley Parker wound up playing out at Chestnut Hills.

And how, Sunday morning, Feldman wound up playing in the same group with the defending city champ in front of – gulp – actual people.

“She was nervous as a cat,” says her father, Kevin, vice president of sales and marketing for Hotel Fitness and a golfer from way back.

She was also right where she belonged, oddly enough. Sixteen years old, a varsity golfer for Leo, she fell in love with the game while attending a few camps as a kid but began playing competitively just three years ago.

So of course, in the opening round of her first women’s city Saturday, she dropped a 75 on Chestnut Hills and wound up playing in the championship flight Sunday.

How’d that happen?

“I was hitting everything pretty well,” says Feldman, as spare with words as strokes. “That was pretty much it.”

And that was pretty much one of the stories of the weekend, although she couldn’t keep it going. Nerves sent her to a 51 on the front side Sunday, although she played the back in 39 for a 90. Then she shot 86 Monday to finish with a 251 total, good for a tie for 13th. Exactly the sort of thing the FWWGA was hoping for.

“I think is so important to nurture these young girls and make sure they love golf and have the opportunity to play in things like this that maybe they wouldn’t normally be able to play,” Gross said Monday.

With the hope, of course, that it will be keep them coming back to the game.

“So what’s your favorite thing about golf?” Feldman was asked Monday.

“It’s really rewarding when you hit a good shot. And also playing with really good people,” she said.

And playing in the women’s city, nerves and all?

“Pretty cool,” she said.

No kinda about that one.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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