Golf is expensive, especially for a promising young player. Practice and round costs pile up fast and never stop coming. Quality instruction doesn't come cheap. Entry fees to even middle-level junior events are eye-watering. Yes, golf is a meritocracy once everyone tees it up, but getting there tends to look much less egalitarian.
Just ask Eli Febres. His son, Ayden, 12, is one of the best junior golfers in a state full of great ones: Florida. Eli and his family make ends meet, but having experienced homelessness in his life after his father abandoned his mother and siblings, he knows the experience of hand-to-mouth struggle like few parents in the junior golf ranks. He knows that he has to get a little more creative than most parents when it comes to helping set Ayden up for success in golf, whether in practice or tournaments. He also knows he'll be damned if he doesn't do what he can to help Ayden reach his full potential in the game, whether that's a college scholarship and a ticket to a quality education or eventual PGA Tour stardom. And that commitment comes with sacrifice, often of his and his wife Rochelle's own wishes and comforts in favor of Ayden's needs.
It takes a village to raise a great golfer, and it helps when the village elders are looking out for you. GolfPass’ VP of Digital Content Fran Solomita caught wind of Ayden through his producing partner Will Lowery along with Tarek "Ty" DeLavallade, whose fast-growing Deuce Premium clothing brand continues to develop sharp, inclusivity-minded golf apparel and accessories that particularly resonate with golfers of color. As executive director of the United Golfers Association, DeLavallade organizes the annual Jim Thorpe Invitational golf tournament in Orlando, where the Febres live. This spring, Ayden won the event's 10-12 age division, adding to a growing trophy case.
Ayden and Eli feature in GolfPass' newest miniseries, Home Course Advantage, which spotlights promising young golfers looking for opportunities to prove their excellence alongside typically more thoroughly-funded competition. Solomita, show host Lowery and their crew spent several days getting to know Ayden, Eli and their passion for the game.
Knowing how hard the family has worked - and what sacrifices they've made - Solomita and his team reached out to some of their own connections, including world-renowned instructor Sean Foley, who has agreed to give Ayden some lessons and mentor him along his journey. TaylorMade Golf has also pitched in by supplying clubs and golf balls to help defray some of the family's expenses. And Youth on Course, a rapidly-growing organization that gives junior golfers access to great courses for as little as $5 per round, is also in Ayden's corner.
There are many golfers out there just like Ayden, and many families like the Febres, who are just one little bit of notice, one kind gesture away from getting to level the playing field in golf and life. With Father's Day coming this weekend, Eli Febres can take pride in his son, who is not just talented but humble, bright and focused on making the most of his next opportunity.