While a friendly competition is held in the PGA Junior League, the emphasis is on creating a fun team event. Instead of focusing on individual performances, the success of the team is at the forefront.
I do not need to remind everyone that the past decade has not been kind to the golf industry.
One of the reasons why the industry is stagnant is that we have actually lost golfers in that time period. Twenty years ago it was not uncommon to see many junior golfers spending their entire summer at the golf course. Since that time, soccer has taken most of the kids from the golf course to the local soccer field.
In addition to losing the junior golfers to soccer, their moms and dads spend many a Saturday morning watching the kids from the sideline instead of striding our fairways. I don’t have anything against soccer–I think it is a great team building activity for our youth, the game is inexpensive and access is easy as any grass field will work.
But finally the PGA is trying to build the team aspect into a junior golf program. Our club is serving as a prototype this summer here in the Raleigh market. The Heritage Club and three other local clubs are hosting teams comprised of youth ages 13 and under playing a round robin schedule.
The format is a two-player scramble playing a three-hole match against two players from the other team. After three holes, those players can step aside and different team members can play the next three-hole match. The format works much like a baseball little league where each player gets to play a minimum number of innings.
While a friendly competition is held, the emphasis is on creating a fun team event. The age group is geared toward the middle school youth in hopes of developing an interest in playing golf as they grow older. In this format, individual performance is not the focus but instead cheering on the success of the teams.
Our club has even gone a step further as we have partnered with a local middle school to draw some of their youth into our team. The hope is that these kids will become excited about the game and that the middle school can start their own team next year. Their middle school team would then serve as a training program for the existing high school team.
We are very excited that this new league may create increased interest and awareness for the game. It allows our industry to compete head-on against the soccer and little leagues that capture our potential junior golfers. The PGA is to be commended for this new initiative and for stepping outside the box to try and interest new golfers into the game.