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How Jordan Spieth’s sister inspired him to build a charitable legacy | CNN


In September 2013, Jordan Spieth was heading into one of the greatest rookie seasons golf has ever seen.

Having become the first teenager to win on the PGA Tour in 82 years, the Dallas-born youngster was selected to the Presidents Cup team. At the end of the season, the newly crowned PGA Tour Rookie of the Year was already ranked 22nd in the world.

For most, handling the chaos of such a dizzying increase would be enough to deal with. But at just 19, Spieth was launching a long-term charitable effort.

Within a year, the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation was born, created to raise awareness and funds for four key “pillars”: youth golf, military veterans, pediatric cancer, and children with special needs.

“Once I had a platform that I knew could not only help raise funds but also raise awareness, it made sense,” recalled Spieth.

“What I am most proud of is not necessarily the money, it is more the number of different programs that we have been able to impact.”

All four branches had a personal connection to Spieth. As a gifted talent raised in the competitive but fun atmosphere of Brookhaven Country Club in Texas, he wanted to make sure other youngsters could have similar opportunities. Spieth had been touched by the Tour’s support for military veterans, and after watching childhood friends battle cancer, the disease had struck close to home.

But no pillar is closer to home than children with special needs. Ultimately, thanks to her younger sister, Ellie, who has autism, Spieth launched her charitable mission, supporting programs and initiatives for children with special needs.

Volunteering in her classroom while in high school, Spieth witnessed firsthand all the staff did to help students.

Spieth and his sister ride a buggie at the Houston Open in 2016.

“The real heroes are the special needs teachers,” he told CNN.

“I think about that constantly, the calling to go and do that and I want to see kids with intellectual disabilities try to improve and be the person to help them do that.

“Those teachers are just amazing, so we are helping them in any way we can.”

When Spieth won his first Grand Slam, the Masters, in 2015, becoming the second-youngest winner in Augusta after Tiger Woods, he was quick to praise his “biggest supporter”: his sister.

“She’s someone you can look at and then reflect on the big picture of life and understand that all these frustrations in one day, or one round of golf, are really secondary,” Spieth told CNN at the time.

Spieth hugs Ellie after winning the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational at Colonial Country Club, Texas, in 2016.

Ellie couldn’t make it to Augusta that day, but her brother has given her a great opportunity to participate in the celebrations ever since. With three majors and 13 Tour titles to his credit, the 29-year-old has already enjoyed a career most golfers could only dream of.

His foundation has grown along with it. Fueled in part by the nearly $53 million in prize money Spieth has accumulated throughout his time on Tour, the foundation has supported a number of causes and awarded nearly $7 million in grants, according to its website.

The next step in the foundation’s growth is a partnership with Invited, announced this week, in a move that will also see Spieth become a strategic advisor and brand ambassador for the Dallas-based hospitality brand.

Spieth celebrates winning the US Open in Chambers Bay in 2015.

The association offers the potential for fundraising initiatives at many of the 161 Invited-owned and operated golf clubs in the US, including Spieth’s Brookhaven Kids Club, which coincidentally was also the first club in the company in 1957.

While the club was a frequent visit for Spieth during the pandemic, the jet-setting nature of Tour life has limited the golfer’s return to his roots. But regular rounds by Ellie and Father Shawn have ensured that a Spieth is never far from Brookhaven.

“He loves to go with my dad … to be outside and hit golf balls, it’s great to see him,” Spieth said.

“It’s where I played my first round with my dad, it’s where I beat my dad for the first time, it’s full circle for me.

“A couple of my friends, they have little kids, and they’re looking to bond and that’s great because I’ll start to get to see…my friends’ kids grow up in the environment that I grew up in.”

Spieth celebrates his victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii with his mother Christine, father Shawn, sister Ellie and then-girlfriend, now wife, Annie.  (LR)

Advising the organizers of the Invited junior golf program on how best to replicate that environment will be one of the former World No. 1’s main responsibilities.

For Spieth, the recipe is simple: let them play. Having grown up before the age of iPhones and extensive, often tedious, video work on swing technique, a young Spieth’s typical summer Saturdays in Brookhaven began with golf, then basketball and soccer, before return to another nine holes.

“Those opportunities to just be a kid and run and feel safe, but at the same time, I loved the competition, regardless of what it was,” Spieth said.

“A lot of the guys I grew up with were the best players in the country, but then they ended up not loving them or they burned themselves out, and that’s common in a lot of sports. But there are specific reasons why I stayed in love with him.

“Letting kids be kids, creating a safe environment that also has everything a kid wants to do, that’s what we had there.”

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