‘Pied Piper of youth golf:’ Gardens coach to be featured in CBS special


Highlights

Sherri Pla was a standout basketball player at FAU and had dreams of going into the WNBA.

Pla’s passion caught the attention of the producers of a special featuring PGA pros around the country.

“Bye, sweetie. You did great today. I’m proud of you,” PGA Pro Sherri Pla tells one of her youngest protégés leaving the Sandhill Crane Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens after practice Tuesday afternoon.

She high-fives a little girl who just stepped off the course: “Emily, how’d you do?” Another of her junior golfers makes a shot, and she calls to him, “Nice putt, Quinn! 30-footer, making it look easy, dude!”

RELATED: Palm Beach Gardens club’s young golfers get to meet the pros

It’s that enthusiasm that earned Pla a spot on a national television special featuring PGA pros in different roles across the country. The special “Turning Passion into Profession” will air 2 p.m, Sunday, July 16 on CBS before the final round of the John Deere Classic golf tournament, City Manager Ron Ferris said.

He described Pla as the “Pied Piper of youth golf” in Palm Beach Gardens, someone whose “enthusiasm is just infectious.” Accurate, and a little ironic.

READ: PGA pro has passion for golf, teaching

Pla, a Suncoast High School graduate, was a standout basketball player who considered pursuing a career in the WNBA. She was in college watching TV when she saw then NBA stars Michael Jordan and Penny Hardaway walk off the golf course together.

Pla turned to her softball coach, Joan Joyce, an accomplished golfer, and said Joyce needed to teach her to play golf so she could hit the links with the stars in her downtime when she’s a famous basketball player.

Joyce took her to an empty field to start hitting balls. The next year, one of her golf recruits didn’t play, so she put Pla on the team. The rest is history.

Pla said she has no idea why she was selected for TV special. She surmises the early success of the PGA Junior League she helped start has something to do with it.

There are 84 golfers enrolled in the inaugural season. The goal was 48, she said. The league has golfers from every demographic and skill level, Pla said, describing it as a “melting pot.”

The Junior League gives local kids a chance to go to a national championship — an opportunity they didn’t really have before, Pla said. They compete in two-person teams every Sunday at the Sandhill Crane Golf Club.

She got the news about the TV segment via an email she read at the course.

“I was just blown away,” she said. “It took me a second to kind of process.”

When reality hit, she became “super excited” for the kids to be showcased. She points to a 16-year-old practicing at the course Tuesday. She’s coached him since he was in fourth grade. “He’s like a son to me,” she says.

Five-year-old Emily Ballard is a little newer to the game. She saw her dad hitting golf balls at the course and wanted to emulate him. One of the assistant professionals noticed her interest and asked if she wanted to take lessons, dad Jason Ballard said.

She’s young and shy, but Pla and her coaches have done a good job of getting her to open up to them. And she shined when the TV cameras were on her when a crew shot Pla’s segment of the special April 30, Jason Ballard said.

“She actually did really well. Then she told mom she wanted to be on TV,” he said.

The kids’ rounds were a little slower than usual that day, Pla admitted, because they were excited and nervous. She said she appreciated the way the TV crews didn’t rush her or try to script things out.

They haven’t gotten around to planning a watch party yet.

“The real celebration was really about that day,” Pla said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Florida high school athlete dies after collapsing in weight room
Florida high school athlete dies after collapsing in weight room

A two-sport athlete from Jacksonville died last week after collapsing in his high school's weight room. Ben Johnson was pronounced dead Thursday, two days after he was rushed to the hospital. Johnson suffered cardiac arrest and irreversible brain damage, the Florida Times-Union reported. He was a sophmore at Fleming Island High School. An autopsy...
Rick Shaw, first South Florida DJ to play the Beatles, dies at 78
Rick Shaw, first South Florida DJ to play the Beatles, dies at 78

Rick Shaw, a radio veteran of more than 50 years and the first disc jockey in South Florida to play the Beatles, has died at age 78. Shaw, a Cooper City resident who spent 46 years as a DJ in Miami, passed away on Friday, the Miami Herald reported. Shaw began his DJ career in 1956 in St. Louis, coming to Miami in 1960. While working for WQAM in...
Megyn Kelly’s getting ready for new morning show, hopes for a Trump-free zone
Megyn Kelly’s getting ready for new morning show, hopes for a Trump-free zone

Megyn Kelly says she left Fox News Channel to bring more joy to her life. NBC hopes that starting Monday, she can spread some to the network and its viewers. The former Fox News Channel star and Donald Trump foil debuts her talk show at 9 a.m. EDT, nestled into the four-hour “Today” show block and competing in most of the country with...
After Irma: Palm Beach County couple raising money for St. Maarten
After Irma: Palm Beach County couple raising money for St. Maarten

A Palm Beach County couple is helping raise money for the people of St. Maarten after the island was slammed by Hurricane Irma. After getting in contact with some island residents, Donnamarie Pardi of Jupiter learned about the damage caused by the Category 5 storm. RJ and Donnamarie Pardi also reside in St. Maarten. After Hurricane Irma: Get the latest...
Bond set at $50,000 for man charged in Boynton attempted homicide
Bond set at $50,000 for man charged in Boynton attempted homicide

The morning after 26-year-old Odny Norzius was arrested in the August shooting of a woman in Boynton Beach, he faced his immediate fate before a circuit court judge: a $50,000 bond set for charges including attempted second degree murder and potential house arrest. The defendant stands accused on charges that he robbed and attempted to kill a 32-year-old...
More Stories