Thirteen Chinese elite junior golfers from the Asia Pacific Golf Academy (APGA) visited the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on Thursday, January 28, for a cultural exchange with Community youth at the Round House Café.
The group of golfers attended a winter golf camp at the Talking Stick Golf Club through VISION54, a national golf coaching program. VISION54 was started by co-founders Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, two of the top golf instructors in America, and is headquartered here in the Valley at the Talking Stick Golf Club. When Nilsson and Marriott travel, the Talking Stick Experience also travels with them, bringing in golfers from all across the world.
“Through the relationship between Talking Stick Golf Club and VISION54, we are fortunate to be able to reach golfers and organizations from across the globe. The recent visit by the Asia Pacific Golf Academy, which included some of the elite junior golfers from China, their parents, coaches and translators, is hopefully the first of many to come. We appreciate the opportunity to not only provide the golf experience, but to introduce these guests to the entire Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination and the rich Culture of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community,” said Talking Stick Golf Club general manager Steve Leonard, PGA.
The evening started with a blessing and welcome. A light dinner was served of posole, beef vegetable stew, tortillas and frybread. The Chinese youth weren’t shy about asking for seconds on the frybread; though it was foreign to them, they found it quite delicious.
“This is my first visit to Arizona and my third visit to the [United States]. I enjoy the [SRPMIC] and we feel happy here. Everybody is kind, and I feel good. [Miss Salt River] is very kind and beautiful. I will tell my family that it is very good here and I wish they could come here to visit,” said junior golfer Liu Yiyi, 15.
After dinner, the SRPMIC Traditional Dancers performed basket and social dances, asking the Chinese guests and Community youth to join in. The Round House Café was full of laughter as the visitors were able to experience the rich cultures of the O’odham and Piipaash dances. SRPMIC Council Member Ricardo Leonard explained the meaning behind the social dance, which helped the youth understand it before participating.
“My visit here has been amazing. Thank you to the tribe; it was a great event. Our pre-professional golfers have never been [exposed] to this knowledge and this culture. It’s amazing,” said APGA founder Xiang Tang (pronounced “Sean”).
“This is the first group of elite junior golfers to come here and do this. These are the best junior golfers in all of China. There are several here that will be professional or on television in five or 10 years. We [also] wanted them to [have] the full-on Talking Stick experience,” said Marriott.
When asked how she invited the Chinese guests to the Community, Marriott answered, “I said, ‘You come from China, from an ancient culture, and we would like to introduce you to another ancient culture.’ So they said yes to a visit.”
“It’s our first time seeing the [O’odham and Piipaash dance] like this; we’ve seen the hoop dance at the golf course. This was really special for me. At the end of the ceremony, when everyone was shaking hands, I loved that. It brings cultures together. And the food was fantastic,” said Marriott.
As the night ended with more dancing and a group photo, the young Chinese golfers and representatives from VISION54 left with memories and more interest in the SRPMIC culture and heritage.
“They were golfing all day and working hard, so this is a nice evening for them,” added Marriott.
“As our entertainment district grows, so too, do the opportunities to share the story of our Community, history and successes. We are grateful for partners like Talking Stick Golf Club and VISION54 that allows us to further connect with area visitors via unique cultural tours and exchanges such as the one we had with our friends from APGA. It is our hope that they not only learned something while visiting the area, but also created memories that they will remember for years to come and that those memories will entice them to visit us again soon,” said Talking Stick Destination marketing manager Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez.
For more information about VISION54, visit the Talking Stick Golf Club website at http://talkingstickgolfclub.com/vision54/.