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Friday, Aug 01, 2014

Clearwater grad juggles LPGA tour, helping others

Special correspondent
Published:
TAMPA -

Jenny Gleason spent 250 days on the road last year and could have done a lot more.

That says a lot about Gleason, an LPGA professional who plays out of East Lake Woodlands Golf Club in Oldsmar, but is just as concerned about the charitable organizations that keep her frequent flier miles piling up.

Gleason, who is a full-fledged member of the LPGA Tour after finishing seventh overall on the Symetra Tour, is a Tampa Bay native who graduated from Clearwater High School. She learned the game at the Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy in Clearwater and contributes regularly to the school, hosting fundraisers and giving clinics and events to raise money.

Gleason, who hasn't won yet on the tour, said that giving back to the community is what she enjoys the most, even if it takes up a lot of free time. She is the executive director of the Angela Stanford Foundation, named for one of the top players on the tour. Stanford's mother suffered from breast cancer several years ago and Stanford, who rising higher and higher on the LPGA money list, reached out to her friend, Gleason, to run the foundation, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas. Gleason didn't even think about saying no.

“Angela's mother (Nan) is like a second mother to me,” Gleason said. “This means so much to me. That and working with kids. Anything I can do to help anyone means a lot to me. Golf is my passion, but so is helping other people.”

The Angela Stanford Foundation raises money for women and children, and Gleason said it was a natural fit once she was asked to direct the foundation.

“As soon as I was asked if I could help, there was no question,” Gleason said. “I need to concentrate on golf now that I have a full exemption, but I love kids and if it means being on the road, that's what I want to do.”

When Stanford asked Gleason to help, Gleason was going through the rocky stretch that comes when a player can't stay on the regular tour and has to play satellite tours and look for special exemptions. Gleason knew her game wasn't where she wanted it to be, so Stanford made it easy on her.

“She told me that she wasn't trying to get me to retire,” Gleason said. “I still had conditional status on the tour, but that didn't mean much. I always look at things in a different way. I was back and forth between tours, but this was an unbelievable reward to me.”

The Angela Stanford Foundation offers 10 scholarships each year to high school students.

“It's great to raise the money,” Gleason said, “but that's not the reason I do it. It can be tough and, fortunately, I have a lot of success in time management, but if I can help children live the kind of life they deserve, if I can help the foundation, all the travel makes it worthwhile.”

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