Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.


Pat Saunders—Supporting Athletes


By Charlene Giannetti

Anyone who has an athletic child knows the commitment involved. It takes a special person, however, to make a commitment to help other people’s children achieve their athletic dreams. Pat Saunders has spent more than twenty years working tirelessly for the American Junior Golf Association, serving on the organization’s board of directors, traveling internationally with the golfers, and serving as tournament chairman for local events. Recently, the AJGA recognized Pat’s efforts, awarding her the prestigious 2009 Digger Smith Award (photo, left below). “Pat is a prime example of a person who never stops giving to others,” said AJGA’s Executive Director Stephen Hamblin.

saundersdiggerawardAlthough Pat is a golfer herself, helping young people succeed at the game has become a passion for her. “I love meeting the kids and traveling with them,” she said. Her satisfaction comes from seeing young golfers benefit from their involvement with AJGA. With more than 80 tournaments each year, AJGA provides a high profile venue for young golfers to compete and earn college scholarships. Many of AJGA’s graduates ultimately turn professional, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, among them. In 2003, Saunders traveled to Sweden with a group of young women who competed in the Junior Solheim Cup. At least three of those women—Brittany Lincicome, Paula Creamer, and Amanda Blumenhurst—are now competing professionally. The last two years, she has accompanied both boys and girls to the Evian Masters Juniors Cup in Evian, France. (Photo , top, shows Pat with Annie Park, left, and Kyung Kim, members of the 2008 U.S. Evian Masters Juniors Cup Team).

Saunders’ dedication to young athletes does not stop with golf. As a member of the board at Asphalt Green, she has been active in raising money for the organization’s Swim for the Future, an initiative launched after 9/11 that does for young swimmers what the AJGA does for young golfers: provides the resources to cover the costs for these students to swim and train at Asphalt Green. Many of these Swim for the Future recipients have gone on to qualify for Olympic trials, hold national records, and are members of the U.S.A. National Swim Team. “These students have great futures in the world of swimming,” said Saunders. She also supports Asphalt Green’s efforts to teach public school children how to swim through the Waterproofing Program.

party with Olympians

Saunders has been a member of Asphalt Green’s Masters Swim Team for sixteen years. (Photo above, Saunders with members of the Masters Swim Team and, on left, Olympians Craig Beardsley and Janel Jorgensen). When two member of the team, Andrew Fisher and Doug Irgang, perished on 9/11, Saunders, fellow Masters swimmers, Asphalt Green staff, and coaches at Asphalt Green met with the families. “We wanted to raise money for competitive juniors swimmers at Asphalt Green to help those who do not have the money to cover the costs of training and competition,” she explained. With the support of the Fisher and Irgang families, the first Swim for the Future benefit was held in November, 2001, and raised $150,000. “People came out and the dollars poured in,” Saunders said. On September 12, the Ninth Annual Swim for the Future was held, a brunch, preceded by a practice swim dedicated to those who died, a “lap of silence” swim by Masters swimmers, and a relay race featuring scholarship recipients and Olympic swimmers. (Photo below, Saunders, front, with Olympians and members of the Asphalt Green Board).

Pat with Olympians

In addition to the AJGA and Asphalt Green, Saunders has aided children’s causes through the Legal Aid Society, serving in the past as chairman of the Civil Support Division and a board member. For many years, she was instrumental in organizing the society’s yearly Christmas Party for children living in shelters, as well as the “Thinking Out Loud,” luncheon with speakers that included Linda Fairstein and Anna Quindlen. She now serves on the agency’s policy committee. As a member of the St. Vincent’s Auxiliary, she co-chaired the group’s annual benefit and worked on the annual Christmas boutique. And while she dedicates most of her time to benefit children, for sixteen years she oversaw a weekly lunch for senior citizens at the Church of St. Thomas More on East 89th Street.

pat-rowdy1Saunders’ drive to give back began when she was growing up in Brooklyn. In high school, she spent her off hours volunteering at a nursing home and for the Red Cross. She received her bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from Binghamton University, where she now serves on the Foundation Board. She received her master’s degree in social work from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., in 1969. (Photo left, Saunders with three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Rowdy Gaines, a board member ar Asphalt Green).

Saunders, and her husband, Paul, an attorney, raised their two sons, Paul Jr., now a cardio thoracic surgeon, and Michael, a corporate executive, in Manhattan. When her sons were young and she stopped working fulltime, Pat became involved at their school (she served as secretary, vice president, and president of St. Bernard’s Parents Association) and lent a hand with sports activities for children at the Apawamis Club in Rye. Both sons played golf and were members of the club’s swim team. After many years of watching golf on TV, she began to take lessons herself. Her involvement with AJGA began in 1990 when she served on the committee for the first AJGA event at Apawamis. For ten years, she served as chair of player services for the Buick Classic, held at the Westchester Country Club. Other tournaments she has worked at include the PGA Championship at Winged Foot and the U.S. Open in Bethpage.

Saunders knows what so many parents have discovered: that being involved in sports like golf or swimming benefits children. “A sport like golf teaches a young person patience, that if you want to do well, you have to put in the time,” she said. “They learn respect, for themselves, fellow players, and the course.” During each AJGA event, the group holds “thank you” writing parties, where the young golfers write notes to the sponsors and volunteers. (Photo below, Saunders with the 2008 U.S. Evian Masters Juniors Cup Team).

Evian Team

Now a grandmother of four (Michael and his wife, Kathryn, have two children, Tatum, 4, and Henry, 2, and Paul Jr. and his wife, Susie, also have two children, Erin, who will turn four in October, and William, two and a half), Saunders can often be found in the pool helping them learn to swim. She continues to swim on Asphalt Green’s Masters Swim Team, in the pool three times a week before 6 a.m.

Although Pat admits she doesn’t work on her own golf game as much as she would like, she loves the experience of playing golf. “There are so many special moments in travel,” she said. One year on vacation in Kapalua, Hawaii, she remembers taking a path and coming out on a promontory that afforded breath-taking vistas of the islands and ocean. “If you didn’t play golf, you wouldn’t have that experience,” she said. “It was like being in heaven.”

Woman Around Town’s Six Questions

Favorite Place to Eat: Uptown, Vico, 1320 Madison Avenue, downtown, Frankies Spuntino, 17 Clinton Street
Favorite Place to Shop: Peter Elliott, 1071 Madison Avenue
Favorite New York Sight: Returning to New York by air and experiencing the wonderful views of the city as the plane cruises up the Hudson or East River.
Favorite New York Moment: After a snow storm, I went cross country skiing around Central Park with my friend, Kathy. We checked our skis and had lunch at Tavern on the Green.
What You Love About New York: The neighborhood experience, enjoying the diversity of the great neighborhoods in our city.
What You Hate About New York: The incivilities, honking horns, littering and other discourtesies on the part of our fellow New Yorkers.

For more information about the American Junior Golf Associations, go to www.ajga.org

For more information about Asphalt Green, go to www.asphaltgreen.org/

Great Books about Sacrifice and Olympic Glory


The Summer Olympics are off to a fine start. Who can resist the joyful, ebullient faces of the athletes from all over the globe as they enter the Olympic stadium? Each of those athletes has a story to tell. Of sacrifice, of heartbreaking failure, of a struggle out of poverty, and of the love of family who believed in them. We love books about Olympic athletes to remind us that no matter how insurmountable the odds, it’s always possible to succeed with grace and grit. And since kids love to gather around the TV at night to watch these athletes and dream their own dreams of success, we found some children’s and young adult books to encourage those dreams.

boys in the boat cover

The Boys in the Boat. Daniel James Brown’s book tells the remarkable true story of the University of Washington’s eight-man rowing team who won gold in the infamous summer Olympics of 1936, the same Olympics that made Jesse Owens, rightfully, one of the most famous American athletes of the games. This book, which reads like a novel, describes the unlikely confluence of elements that created a team Olympic champions: 8 earnest and hardworking boys from the bleak 1930’s Pacific Northwest into a world-class, a brilliant and skilled boat maker, and a clever coach who somehow found a way to conquer a national field of qualifiers, and finally, defeat the best rowing teams in the world. This book was also recently released for young readers. THE BOYS IN THE BOAT YOUNG READERS EDITION.

PBS recently produced a one-hour documentary based on the Boys in the Boat.

unbroken cover

UNBROKEN: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, is Laura Hillenbrand’s recounting of Louis Zamperini, who, from an incorrigible hell raiser as a youth, become one of the most talented runners in the Berlin Olympics. When World War II interrupted his plans for the 1940 Olympics and he became an airman in the army. When his air force bomber crashed in Pacific, he drifted on a lifeboat with his surviving crew members, surviving shark attacks, starvation, thirst and enemy aircraft attacks and finally, an even greater challenge. This story of desperation, hope, resolve and finally, survival, is what Entertainment Weekly called “an astonishing testament to the superhuman power of tenacity.”

owens cover

No history of the Olympics would be complete without the telling of Jesse Owens glorious triumph at the 1936 Olympics. In Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics, Jeremy Schaap tells the story of what really happened over the tense, exhilarating weeks during the 1936 Olympics. Set against a backdrop of swastikas, Owens, an African-American son of sharecroppers won 4 gold medals. Schaap enriches this well known legend with previously unpublished interviews of Owens’ family and archival research to retell this dramatic tale of Owens and his teammates.  

liddell cover

For the Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton. You may remember Eric Liddell as the Olympic gold medalist from the Academy Award winning film Chariots of Fire. Liddell would not run on Sunday because of his strict Christian faith and, as a result, he did not compete in his signature event, the 100 meters, at the 1924 Paris Olympics. He was the greatest sprinter in the world at the time, and his choice not to run was ridiculed by fellow athletes and the press the British Olympic committee. He did compete in a new event for him, winning gold in the 400 meters. His faith let him to China to missionary work and during war he was interned at a Japanese work camp with other westerners. His Christianity was tested as he counseled fellow prisoners and gave up his meals to others more in need. He died just before the end of the war and was mourned around the world. His story of sacrifice still inspires the next generation.

mia hamm cover

Winners Never Quit! Mia Hamm, American soccer champion, the world’s top goal scorer and three-time Olympian tells a story about perseverance and teamwork. In this motivational story, little Mia becomes frustrated after losing a match. Her teammates decide to teach her a gentle lesson, through which she learns about teamwork, losing with grace and about the joy of playing soccer whether her team wins or loses. The book concludes with a summary of facts and photos of Mia Hamm’s rise to soccer superstar.

michael phelps cover

How to Train a T Rex and win 8 Gold Medals. Michael Phelps, the American swimmer, holds the record for winning the most gold medals (8) in a single Olympics (2008).  He has won 22 Olympic medals, 18 gold, two silver and two bronze. In this book, written with Alan Abrahamson, Phelps encourages kids to work hard to achieve their dreams. He explains his training regimen using concepts children can understand. For example, six years of training are described as “as kindergartner’s whole life!” In once section, Phelps describes his training by saying, “I got so strong from training that my legs could press 300 pounds 60 times in one workout. That’s 18,000 pounds total, or nine tons! I could leg-press a Tyrannosaurus Rex and 10 velociraptors!” This is accompanied by a humorous drawing of a T-Rex with smaller dinosaurs on his back being lifted by Michael Phelps. It’s a great book to keep kids motivated to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be.