Get the Gear

More from PGA

Mike Thomas
Traci Edwards/PGA of America
Top News
Experts headline Day 1 of PGA Summit

Worldwide experts headline Day 1 of PGA Global Youth and Family Summit

A sold-out house of 220 attendees from around the world converged on the Orange County Convention Center Sunday, Jan, 21, for the first day of the 3rd PGA Global Youth & Family Summit presented by OMEGA, serving as the kickoff to the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show Week.

Hosted by Golf Channel broadcaster Charlie Rymer, PGA, the two-day global youth golf think tank expands upon the PGA’s mission to understand more about how people of all ages learn the game most effectively, in order to help drive new players into the game and increase retention success.

“With the PGA of America focused on growing the game worldwide, it’s a natural to extend the vision of this year’s event to a global scale,” said 3rd PGA Global Youth & Family Summit Chair Rich Murphy, PGA. “The Summit has attendees and speakers representing a dozen countries. This allows for us to align some of the game’s most recognized experts and industry leaders to continue the conversation on growing golf among our next generation of players and position the sport as the ultimate family recreation activity.”

Presenters offered extensive insight and programming ideas for PGA and LPGA Professionals, and other industry leaders to bring back to their facilities and colleagues. The information presented was designed to help grow their business among existing customers and create new players.

“We’re all here to learn and enhance the value what PGA and LPGA Professionals bring to their place of employment,” said Rymer, who was an All-American at Georgia Tech in the 1980s and played on the PGA Tour.

MORE: Photos from the 2018 PGA Global Youth and Family Summit

Growing in Stature across the World

Every two years since 2014, junior golf leaders from around the world have traveled to Orlando to discuss golf’s most important pipeline—boys and girls who want to play the game for a lifetime. “This two-day event is growing in stature worldwide,” said Dr. Stephen Norris, Executive Vice President and Chief Sport Officer at the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary, who presented on “Dealing with Today’s Parents.” “When I travel around, people know about it, and talk about it, and that will go very well when we look at the future of the game.

“All of these summits have one theme—learning and enjoying the game,” said PGA of America Hall of Fame Member Michael Hebron, who realized that he became a better teacher when he became a learning development instructor who was student-centric, instead of topic driven. “Give them choices. The most powerful thing in the world you can give someone is choice…Birds fly. Fish swim. People feel.”

Grandfather, PGA….Father, PGA….Son/Grandson, PGA Champion

The Summit featured a conversation about golf from both the parent and child perspective with Mike Thomas, PGA, Head PGA Professional Emeritus of Harmony Landing Country Club, of Goshen, Kentucky. Mike is the father of 2017 PGA Champion Justin Thomas; and the son of Paul Thomas, PGA, 85. Mike recently caddied for Justin at the 2018 Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

“The most fortunate part for me is we have a relationship that we can do that,” said Mike Thomas. “Not all fathers and sons who play the sport can. I always consider him one of my best friends, and I hope he considers me one of his best friends.

Thomas stresses parents need to encourage their children. “Kids self-esteem is always tied to their score, and I’m trying to get them to address other aspects of their life. I often see parents who are not as good of a player as their child telling them what they did wrong. Parents don’t need to tell their child what they did wrong. They already know on their own.”

Kids Just Want to Have Fun

Local junior golfers were brought onstage to talk about why they play and love the game.

“I love golf because it is fun,” said 5-year-old Abbigal, of Orlando, who wants a set of new golf clubs for her birthday. Abbigal is a student of the 2017 PGA Junior Golf Leader Award recipient Brendon Elliott, who realized in creating his Little Linksters program that golf was not reaching out to young children, as early as age 3. From there, he has built a thriving golf business by creating fun activities, games and instruction for kids.

And that is the key to attract youth to the game—make it fun.

“That’s all kids want to do is have fun,” explained Thomas, who also makes sure kids keep score for anything they compete at while practicing. For example, chipping. Thomas feels kids should aim for a score, such as points for closest to the hole, instead of throwing a bag down and just blindly hitting chips without a purpose or goal.

The Gift of Golf

The Summit serves as a vital exchange of ideas and best practices that impact the bottom line and provide a lasting positive influence on the golf business, especially in promoting the game to a vibrant and ever-growing audience.

“The speakers today are sharing a gift,” said Murphy. “A gift of knowledge. We’re in this room because we have a commitment to the game, to our employers and to our families to grow the game.”

For example, Kate Tempesta, LPGA, works with New York City children, some who live in poverty, in teaching the game of golf. She’s the Founder, Owner and President of “Fun” and Kate Tempesta’s Urban Golf Academy. Embracing the holistic view of the golfer, Tempesta believes in learning in a non-traditional environment that’s both fun and challenging for children of all ages. Tempesta takes into account individual learning styles, group dynamics and ability levels in each learning experience.

 “I’ve witnessed the undeniable power of play,” said Tempesta. “An environment of boundaries but with choices—how to teach kids to be problem solvers…Children are the future of our game, but they are also the future of the world,” said Tempesta.

Meanwhile, Norris stressed that PGA and LPGA Professionals need to cater to the age group they’re dealing with and that lifelong learning is critical to adapt to changing needs and tastes—the philosophical underpinnings—of the consumer, young and old. In order to be successful, PGA Professionals must be a student of the game and an expert in teaching all age groups—from preschool to elementary school age to puberty to adults.

“When it comes to children and youth, it’s a world of possibilities,” adds Norris. “We need to harness their creativity and ability…It’s the environment you create for the target audience, and that’s how you hook in the parents. It’s important to bring in vibrant youth programs, because parents want to be involved with their children. That’s why you must bring [parents] in, and educate them.”

Compete vs. Compare

Norris does not feel it’s advantageous to blame parents, because they have an emotional attachment to the child that’s beyond their control. His view of the world is to try and make everyone better through nurturing, in order to motivate. He added that kids want to compete. Yet, parents want to compare.

“It’s about making a value-proposition to parents to encourage kids’ choices in what sports they take part in,” added Norris. “Often, we focus on the venue. But it’s about the people first. The programs they run next, and then , the places they use.

“Sport does not stand still for anyone…You need to know what you know, know what you don’t know, and then find someone who does, and try to learn everything they know.”

He also points out that failure is part of the road to success, and that we all must fail, before we can learn to succeed on any task, while taking a fun-first approach for kids and a disciplined (yet fun) approach for adults. “Golf really does lend itself well to solution generation.”

Neil Plimmer, a PGA Fellow Professional and Owner of Brighton Junior Golf, in England, says for adults to connect with children is to not stand in their way. “We constantly need to challenge our children to surprise us, to astound us, and they will constantly do it.”

The Importance of Engaging Parents, Too

Ryan Graff, The First Tee Vice President of Program Development and Delivery, explained the odds are one-in-four of a child playing golf, if at least one parent plays golf in the household. However, if neither plays, the odds expand exponentially to one-in-250. Incredibly, these are worse odds then of being incarcerated, perishing in an automobile accident or even for playing in the U.S. Open.

Graff says that parents say they will travel no more than 30 minutes for their child to participate in a sport. Parents also rely—first and foremost—on recommendations from schools and friends. “Schools are where it’s at,” says Graff. “School is where the kids are at and where parents rely upon for recommendations. So, let’s go back to school.”

The 3rd PGA Youth & Family Summit also focused on “Creating Successful Learning Environments.” Dr. Tim Lee, Professor of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario;  Trevor Ragan, of “Train Ugly”; Dr. David Sherwood, of the University of Colorado Department of Integrative Physiology,; Harvard University Psychology Professor Dr. Daniel Schacter; Glenn Cundari, of the PGA of Canada; and UCLA Distinguished Research Professor Dr. Robert Bjork were among the presenters.

Lee recommends going against human nature when teaching children.

“Withhold feedback, make it less guiding,” encourages Lee. “Help the learner be a better problem solver. It’s counter-intuitive but it leads to more effective long-term learning.”

The final day of the Summit will be Monday, Jan. 22, with a full-day’s lineup focusing on growing business through junior golf and the opportunities for employers.