Game Changers

10 PGA Jr. League Captains Who Inspired a Decade of Dominance

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Ten years ago, a pilot program started in four major markets: Atlanta, Tampa, Dallas, and San Diego. What was called “Junior League Golf” in 2011 is now a national sports phenomenon. 
This introduction for children to the game in 2021 had a record 64,000 players nationwide. The most successful junior golf program ever created has not only captivated the competitive souls of parents and kids across the country, but has also inspired PGA Professionals in many ways as well.
In honor of PGA Junior League’s 10th Anniversary, we are going to highlight 10 PGA “Rockstar” Coaches who are the lifeblood of this powerful program. Their hard work, imagination, and relentless approach to getting children involved in golf must be celebrated. Take a moment and allow these infectious junior leaders to inspire and captivate you as well.
1. Eliminate the FOMO
A growth mindset is one of the cornerstones of a great PGA Junior League (PGAJL) program. Take for example Crystal Morse from the Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Indiana. Crystal created a whole new division for younger siblings of her PGAJL team. These 4–7-year-olds wanted to be like their older brothers and sisters, so she included them and started a new team just for them.
2. Can I Bring a +1?
Brittny Lott was looking to increase participation in her program, so she instituted a “bring a friend day.” PGAJL is so much fun, you just need to get kids to come. By creating an environment where kids invite kids at Sugar Creek Golf & Tennis Center, she more than doubled the size of her team in one year.
3. Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Sometimes creating a comfortable environment to learn the game is as simple as developing an all-girls golf program like Toby Bolton did for the First Tee of Atlanta at the John A. White Golf Course. Her instant success is a blueprint for getting more young girls involved nationwide.
4. Parents Play Too!
Meg Stem of the Glenmoor Country Club in Canton, Ohio, celebrated the completion of her PGAJL season by hosting a PGA Family Cup event. The event created a stir and added more participants to her fall PGAJL team as a result.
5. I’m a Pepper, You’re a Pepper…
At the Brookhaven Golf Course in eastern New York, LPGA star player Dottie Pepper learned the game. In 2021, Anthony Therrien continued her legacy by building a successful PGAJL team in just his first season. History can be a great motivator in the present.
6. “I Want a Slushie!”
Golf teaches character. That’s what Scott Wilson of Bay Meadows Family Golf Course in Traverse City, Michigan believes. Wilson bought a slushie machine to engage the kids. Each PGAJL team member has to share something they learned or enjoyed that day before slushies are served. Scott shows how simple motivation goes a long way toward building thoughtful children.  
7. MVP – Most Valuable Personality
A huge sportsmanship trophy sits in the Nevel Meade Golf Course shop in Prospect, Kentucky. Robert Costello, their PGAJL team Captain rewards one player each year who exemplifies the spirit of the game every day. Their name is etched on that trophy for all to see who come through their golf shop. His players aspire to get on the trophy as much as winning a match.
8. How about TopGolf?
At the end of the season, Kelly Kuhlman of Twin Lakes Golf Club in Oakland, Michigan, takes the team to TopGolf as their reward. If there’s one thing PGAJL has taught us all, fun formats attract attention. There’s no better way to get any fun-hearted golfer’s attention than TopGolf. This is truly guaranteed to work if you try it.
9. Families Love Fun
If you’re looking to build a PGAJL family of your own at the club, make sure you take advantage of opportunities within your community to involve the whole family. Dan Terlescki from the Old Palm Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, established a PGAJL trip to Roger Dean baseball stadium for his families. By bringing the whole team community together, he developed a bond amongst the families which fuels future growth.
10.  Just REACH Out
Captain Alex Fernandez wasn’t satisfied with just running a PGAJL team at Palmetto Country Club and Crandon Golf Academy in Key Biscayne, Florida. Together with his staff, they opened another program at the Country Club of Miami and introduced the game to nearly a hundred PGA REACH scholarship players. We all have so many opportunities in our surrounding communities. Look past your links for immediate and impactful growth opportunities.
These 10 Rockstar Team Captains have taken their teams to the next level by having fun, engaging the surrounding community, and connecting families. If you already participate in a PGA Jr. League program, please share these awesome approaches with your PGAJL family. If you don’t already participate, hopefully, these super stories show you that it's time that you did.