The question always gets raised, "how do we get kids interested in golf?"
But lost in all the gimmicks is the most effective method: actually putting kids out on the golf course and letting them play.
That's what the PGA REACH program is trying to do with PGA Junior League Golf. And the numbers back up the simple fact that it's working.
(h/t to Griffin Adams of USA Today Sports)
“The program was created to introduce kids to the sport in a fun, recreational environment, playing on teams that would help us in the PGA’s mission to grow the game of golf and really allow golf to be thought of like every other youth team sport,” PGA Reach senior director Scott Kmiec said.
PGA Junior League Golf started in 2011 with 170 kids from 16 teams nationwide, but has exploded in growth to about 30,000 participants from 2,500 teams in 2015. Some of its leagues, which now span 48 states, are for participants age 13-and-under and others are 16-and-under.
All of the young golfers are playing for a chance to tee it up at the PGA Junior League Golf Championships in November at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
However, the program isn't so much about the competition as it is introducing a love for the game.
“It’s not really like, ‘We’re (going to) beat you, we’re (going to) win,’” said 10-year-old Marty Russo, a participant in the program. “It’s more like, ‘Let’s have fun, and let’s see how it’s (going to) turn out.’ It’s more like just having fun, you can definitely tell.”
Participants are part of a team, and wear jerseys with numbers on the back similar to what you'd expect from other youth sports. And the PGA JLG provides subsidized costs and financial assistance for kids who couldn't normally afford to play.
With support from players like Rory McIlory, Rickie Fowler, and Michelle Wie, and great venues like Congressional Country Club, it's not hard to imagine continued growth for PGA Junior League Golf.