Youth sports are as popular as ever, and it seems like the opportunities continue to grow. From jiu-jitsu to yoga, baseball to football, there’s no shortage of options. The game of golf is one of the best. Here’s why, and more importantly, how to get started with a lifetime of enjoyment.
Why Play Golf?
Golf encourages the positive side of personal development. Tenets such as sportsmanship, honesty, respect and perseverance are woven into its fabric. Players keep their own scores, assess penalties on themselves and even root for their competitors. Contrast this with players taking a knee during the National Anthem, arguing with the referees, or even getting into fisticuffs over “trading a little paint” – the differences couldn’t be more obvious.
Although this hardly exhausts the list of reasons why golf is a great sport for kids, let’s move on to the important part, getting them started. In Arizona that leads straight to the Southwest PGA Foundation (SWPGAF) and the Junior Golf Association of Arizona (JGAA). These two organizations have been coaching-up junior golfers for decades, and in 2016 they decided to assume co-leadership roles to benefit Arizona junior golf.
“Passing the game to the next generation has always been one of the primary components of our Association’s mission,” said Michael Miller, Executive Director of the Southwest Section PGA. “Our new partnership with the JGAA supports this mission in a way that allows us to focus on the developmental side while they work primarily with tournament-ready juniors.”
As Miller mentioned, the SWPGAF focuses more on game introduction through golf schools, junior camps, PGA Junior League Golf, Drive Chip & Putt, Firebirds Club and the Antigua Junior Prep Tour. Drive Chip & Putt offers a timely example of a local Valley junior golf success story. Scottsdale’s Mason Quagliata earned top honors in the Boys 14-15 age group at the 2017 Drive, Chip and Putt national championships held during Masters week at Augusta National Golf Club. To secure the victory, Quagliata carded a 270.2 yard drive (3rd best in the field), an 11’1” chip aggregate (2nd best in the field) and a 5’10” putt aggregate (5th best in the field).
PGA Junior League
It’s also time to get juniors signed up for PGA Junior League Golf – a fun, social and inclusive opportunity for boys and girls ages 13 and under to learn and enjoy the game in a recreational league. Participants don colorful jerseys and play a low-pressure scramble format on teams alongside their pals. PGA Junior League Golf looks much like the Little League World Series with local and regional qualifiers leading up to the championship held locally at Grayhawk in November.
As players work their way through the developmental programs, their next step is the JGAA, a non-profit organization that encourages juniors to cultivate their game through a full calendar of competitive tournaments. Of these tournaments, the Junior Masters Series sits at the pinnacle. The invitation-only events – boosted by professionals such as Bryce Molder and Charlie Beljan – are tailored to junior golfers with the ability and desire to compete against other local top-ranked players without the need to travel far from home. JGAA members also receive benefits for casual play through the Youth on Course program, which allows members to play golf for $5 or less at 17 facilities (and growing) in Arizona.
“The partnership with the Southwest PGA has really helped to clarify the first step for entry-level juniors as well as accomplished players,” said Scott McNevin, Executive Director of the JGAA. “This coordination helps juniors easily find the best level of participation for their abilities and goals within the game, whether it’s playing competitively against Arizona’s best or just having fun with friends.”
JGAA also hosts useful seminars to foster member development within the game. One of the most popular is College Golf Night. This special event features local college golf coaches and other experts that counsel JGAA members aspiring to play collegiate golf and potentially earn a golf scholarship. In addition, the JGAA administers two of scholarships of its own – the Tres Arnold & John Wolfinger Memorial Scholarships.
No sport combines the character-building principles and recreational benefits like golf. In Arizona, the first step for junior golfers is clear. If they’re just breaking into the game, visit SouthwestPGA.com to find the best starting point. If they have some skill, a good handle on the rules of golf, and maybe a little fire in their belly, visit JGAA.org to break into the field and tee it up for less through Youth on Course. Either way, they’ll receive incredible support from two leaders of Arizona junior golf.