PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Twenty-seven students from as far away as Hawaii received a special treat Wednesday morning during the inaugural Ryder Cup Junior Academy at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Meeting the students on the lesson tee for individual instruction were World Golf Hall of Fame Member and 1995 United States Ryder Cup Captain Lanny Wadkins; 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup Team Member Dustin Johnson; and PGA of America President Allen Wronowski.
The Ryder Cup Junior Academy, which offers a full-week of instruction to selected juniors, was developed in response to recommendations made by past United States Ryder Cup Captains and designed to provide aspiring junior golfers, regardless of ethnic or economic background, an elite player-development experience with focus on competing in match-play and stroke-play formats.
"This is something we talked about with Past Ryder Cup Captains – to give these kids an experience that is unique to any junior in the world," said Wronowski, the PGA director of golf at Hillendale Golf Club in Phoenix, Md. "It is so much fun to watch these kids sit on the edge of their seats and listen to Lanny Wadkins, even though they are a generation removed from each other, and then watch a contemporary in Dustin Johnson. It is such a thrill."
Wadkins and Johnson gave separate clinics, covering the mental and physical approach to their game and how juniors could apply it during play. They also fielded questions from the students and observed individual golf swings on the practice range.
"I think this entire event is really special and being out on the golf range with Dustin Johnson was fantastic for everyone involved," said Wadkins. "I applaud what The PGA of America is doing to promote the game. They are laying the foundation for the future of golf."
The Academy is a unique, once-in-a lifetime experience. It celebrates the passion of the Ryder Cup, while inspiring participants to achieve greatness and to improve their lives through the game of golf.
As part of the 2010 United States Ryder Cup Team's outreach commitment — which has already impacted U.S-based organizations and students at colleges and universities nationwide — each player designated $50,000 each to create and support the Ryder Cup Junior Academy.
"I really respect all of the juniors who are out here this week for the Ryder Cup Junior Academy," said Johnson. "Any advice that Lanny and I can give to help these exceptional kids is really special to us and these are the types of events that I really enjoy doing. We can make a huge impact and that is important."
Georgia PGA Section representative Tristan Usry, 15, arrived at the Academy from Nunez, Ga., where he picked up golf just a year ago and is already playing on the Swainsboro (Ga.) High School Team.
"This is an awesome dream," said Usry. "I never expected it. I don't think I ever thought I would be getting a lesson from Lanny Wadkins, Dustin Johnson and Allen Wronowski in my first year playing golf."
Throughout the week, the junior participants will be working on all aspects of golf, including full-swing, chipping, putting, iron play, club fitting and course management.
"One of the participants said to me that the PGA Center for Golf Learning Performance is like Disney World," said Wronowski.
June Conti of Sharon, Conn., a representative from the Connecticut PGA Section, plays on her high school golf team and is also a concert violinist. Just last month, Conti performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, N.Y.
"Dustin and Mr. Wadkins are such an inspiration of what you can achieve if you really work hard," said Conti. "This is an opportunity for all 27 of us to accomplish our dreams and get some really great advice. It's a stepping-stone for all of us in our careers."
The second session of the Ryder Cup Junior Academy is scheduled for July 11-17, and will feature former U.S. Ryder Cup Captains Billy Casper and Dow Finsterwald.
The Ryder Cup Junior Academy will be a seven-day program conducted annually each summer at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance.
About the PGA of America
Celebrating its 95th year, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission of its founders: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf.
By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in a multi-billion dollar golf industry.
By creating and delivering dramatic world-class championships and exciting and enjoyable promotions that are viewed as the best of their class in the golf industry, The PGA of America elevates the public's interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. The PGA of America brand represents the very best in golf.