Together in Golf: For the Rodriguez Family, the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation is a Reason to Stay in L.A.
Marco and Irma Rodriguez were packed into a two-bedroom, one-bathroom Pico Rivera home with their three sons, Andrew, Adrian and Alec. Finances were tight amid the pandemic, and the teacher and social worker were at a crossroads. They had become a golf family since their eldest, Andrew, started taking classes with the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation in 2013 when he was in first grade, and golf had only become more expensive. To compound the situation, L.A. County was completely shut down, making it harder than ever for Marco and Irma to earn money.
“We knew that we had to get out of L.A. County if possible because it was so expensive,” Marco said. “And to be involved in golf activities, especially with Andrew playing in high-level tournaments, was going to be a financial burden.”
Even with Marco working after school, Saturdays and summer school, and Irma logging extra hours, it was becoming too much.
“If we were going to stretch our dollar,” Marco said, “we felt like we had to move somewhere where the cost of living was going to be much less.”
The Rodriguez family had friends who lived in a brand-new Colorado community with beautiful golf courses and a cost of living much lower than that of L.A. Marco and Irma had met the couple years earlier when Andrew and their son were competing in a golf tournament in Riverside, and the wife, also a teacher, told Marco she could get him a job there.
Another teaching opportunity via a golf friend arose, with Marco ultimately receiving an offer to teach fourth grade in Palm
Springs. Irma explored changing job locations to Palm Springs herself, and the family began looking at houses in Beaumont, not far from Palm Springs and where Irma’ sister lived.
Andrew had been playing tournaments in the area since he was nine years old, so the family had a network there. Before committing to a new life in Beaumont, Marco and Irma discussed SCGA Junior and all that their kids were gaining from the program.
“A lot of little things brought us back to, ‘We’re good here,’” Marco said. “We’re a golf family, and we have a vehicle here (in SCGA Junior) that’s leading us down the right path. Let’s stay with that.”
Irma pointed to the “lifelong healthy relationships” her children will continue with friends they met through the SCGA Junior program, and Marco emphasized the coaches and staff. Coaches like (now Player and Youth Development Director) Kaycee Wilke and Eric Koscielak, who has coached all three kids since the beginning.
“That foundation of good people is something we couldn’t walk away from,” Marco said. “You want to keep your family in that environment and raise your kids around those people. It would have been very hard to leave that behind.”
NOT JUST ABOUT GOLF
The boys are now 16, 13 and 10 and each has blossomed through his SCGA Junior journey.
For Adrian, confidence is the clearest area of growth, according to Irma. “He’s really smart, but he’s not a natural golfer like Andrew,” she said. “Adrian has put the time and practice in. He’s always practicing with his dad, and he has a lot of confidence now.”
Andrew added that Adrian has become adept at managing his emotions when he isn’t playing well.
Marco has observed that his sons’ communication skills have improved significantly. “A lot of these communication skills that they need to have going into high school and as adults, they’re developing them earlier,” he said. “It’s a tribute to SCGA (Junior) and how they go about communicating with these kids. It’s not just about golf. It’s about developing your social character, being respectful and kind.”
For Irma, it is important that her sons have been able to cultivate relationships with girls too, as this is something youth sports typically doesn’t yield, with boys mostly playing with and against only other boys.
The youngest Rodriguez boy, Alec, took his first steps at Don Knabe GC in Norwalk while attending his brothers’ SCGA Junior classes. Now 10, in addition to playing golf through the Foundation, he plays organized soccer, basketball and flag football.
“Him being the baby,” Marco said, “he wants to be like his two older brothers and has been asking, ‘Hey, when’s my tournament?’”
Andrew, a highly ranked high school sophomore, lives golf seven days a week and is focused on playing at the Division I level. According to his parents, he is “self-motivated,” emailing coaches and organizing his own practices.
“If they really want to excel, you won’t have to push your kid,” Marco said. “They’ll tell you, ‘Take me, take me.’ If they’re not doing it with fidelity, they’re not going to be great.”
Marco credits SCGA Junior with getting Andrew, who has always been shy and quiet, out of his comfort zone and comfortably engaging with adults. Andrew hit it off with a Wilshire CC member he met on a Play Day, and the pair has since played golf together.
This year, the Rodriguez Family received a $10,000 Junior Golf Assistance Fund grant that reimburses the family for Andrew’s tournaments, travel, lodging and fitness. In return, he sends quarterly video reflections on his experiences and provides updates to donors on his journey.
“It’s allowed us to travel and play in other states against elite competition,” Marco said, “which Andrew has earned the right to play in. It’s made it possible for him to participate.”
Despite their busy schedules, you may find the Rodriguez clan competing against one another in a putting game for a trip to Circle K or 7-Eleven. They prioritize togetherness, and golf is their happy place.
“I don’t know where we would be without the (SCGA Junior) program,” Marco said.