Category - Amateur Programs

Father-Daughter Duos Hit the Fairway at PGA Family Golf Championship

By Mandy Crow
Published on

There are many reasons to travel to California in December: sunshine, warmer temperatures and fewer tourists. But for two families the biggest appeal this December is the PGA Family Golf Championship. 
“The [PGA Family Golf Championship] looked like a great way to experience some top-notch golf courses while also spending one-on-one time with my daughter, Lydia,” says Chris Gagnon, who is competing in the event this weekend. “Being in a warm climate and taking a break from the Maine winter was also a deciding factor.”
The Championship, which gets underway this weekend on the Mountain and Dunes courses at PGA West in LaQuinta, California, gives families a chance to compete together, vying for either an amateur or professional title. Chris and Lydia (pictured above), 10, of North Yarmouth, Maine, are joined by more than 60 other family teams taking part in the weekend event. 
One of those teams is father-daughter pair Shelby and Olivia Neal, 13, of Southlake, Texas. 
“At first, the local family tournament just looked like a fun tournament to play in with my dad,” Olivia recalls. “But when we ended up winning, we realized we could possibly play in the national Championship at PGA West!”
Shelby and Olivia Neal at the 2022 PGA Championship.
Shelby and Olivia Neal at the 2022 PGA Championship.
“There aren’t a lot of family and parent-child tournaments near where we live, so the opportunity to play in the Championship was too good to pass up,” Shelby adds. “I’m looking forward to meeting some other families—golf people are great people—and experiencing world-class golf with Olivia.” 
Shelby got into golf at 15 years old when a few friends invited him to play. He didn’t know the rules and had to borrow a set of 1960s golf clubs from his grandfather, but Shelby was hooked from the first tee.
Olivia, on the other hand, started playing golf when she was about three years old, accompanying her dad to the course. Since then, she’s taken part in a wide variety of PGA junior programming, from PGA Jr. League to local tournaments and day camps. She currently takes lessons with Kaylin Skovron at Jeff Isler Golf in Southlake. 
For a father and daughter who consider themselves best friends and love golf, signing up for the first-ever PGA Family Golf Championship was a no-brainer. But it’s also a chance to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience together. 
“I have traveled extensively for work, so travel for its own sake doesn’t necessarily excite me all that much,” Shelby says. “But when I get to see Olivia experience something for the first time, that’s a totally different experience. As a parent, it’s an incredibly special feeling to get to share first-time experiences with your kids. This is a lot more than a golf tournament for me.”
For Chris and daughter Lydia, the tournament also checks another item off the family bucket list. They’re trying to travel to all 50 states, and the trip to California moved them one step closer to that goal, marking off state 16. 
The Gagnon family.
The Gagnon family.
Up until now, Chris and his wife, Crystal, have surprised their daughters with their vacation destinations as a Christmas gift. Hailing from Maine, the family has taken most of their trips in the winter, visiting Southern states to take advantage of warmer climates. The whole family loves golf, so many of their trips have included memorable golf moments.
“It’s really hard to decide, but I think my favorite trip so far was Hilton Head, South Carolina,” Lydia says. “We went to the RBC Heritage at Harbourtown Golf Links, and I got 12 signatures on my hat. My sister and I also got a picture with John Rahm!”

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Lydia, who’s been playing golf since she was 5, also participates in PGA Jr. League with PGA of America Golf Professional Abby Spector at Riverside Golf Course in Portland, Maine, as well as Drive, Chip and Putt and summer camps at Val Halla Golf and Recreation in Cumberland, Maine. She and her dad are hoping to play some of their best golf at the Championship, but more than that, they want to soak up the entire experience.
“This is going to be a great way for Lydia and me to spend some extended time together,” Chris says. “It’s a bonus to be doing so on some world-class golf courses.” 
While the trip and the chance to play at PGA West are amazing opportunities, Shelby Neal says, his biggest goal is to just have fun with his daughter, Olivia.
“People always say kids grow up fast, but it’s true,” Shelby says.

“Getting the opportunity to spend a few uninterrupted hours on a golf course with your child and making some special memories in the process is something you can’t put a price on.”

Shelby Neal