Game Changers

In Dallas, Keeton Park's PGA Jr. Opportunity League Creates One Big Golf Family

By Hayden Lewis, PGA
Published on

Jose Rodriguez admits that golf was never really on his radar growing up in the Skyline neighborhood just east of downtown Dallas. 
“I saw myself going into politics or law,” recalls Jose.  “When I was in high school, my geography teacher – who also happened to be the golf coach – encouraged me to pick up the game.  I told myself that plenty of businessmen and lawyers play golf, so maybe this is something I can pick up and use later in life.”
One afternoon, as Jose was spending a practice session at nearby Keeton Park Golf Course, he caught the eye of PGA of America Golf Professional Tony Martinez, Keeton's Director of Golf.  During his junior year at Skyline High School, Jose interviewed for a part-time job with Tony.  Five years later, Jose – now 22 – finds himself working full-time at Keeton Park alongside his sixteen-year-old brother, Erik, who has since come on board to help manage the outside services and golf car fleet.  
Eric (far left) and Jose (far right) Rodriguez, who now both work at Keeton Park, with their family. (Ryan Lochhead)
Eric (far left) and Jose (far right) Rodriguez, who now both work at Keeton Park, with their family. (Ryan Lochhead)
“I remember one day I saw Jose going to the golf course and, as a younger brother, I instinctively wanted to go with him,” says Erik.  “I also joined the golf team and fell in love with the game just by being around it.  I love working here with my brother and the rest of the staff.”
Tony speaks highly to the similarities he sees between the Rodriguez brothers and his own history.  By sharing the game with the rest of his family, he knows first-hand the benefits of what the game can provide – particularly in regards to his own son, Ty, who is pursuing PGA of America Membership and is Keeton Park's Head Golf Professional. 
“I’m the same story as Jose,” says Tony.  “Golf has that effect. It sort of trickles down to the whole family.” 
A family affair at Keeton Park 
For the Rodriguez brothers, family is everything.  Between their three sisters Janet, 14, Johanna, 10, Millie, 6, and mother, Maria, one does not simply start a new activity without another catching on.  The five siblings’ late father, who passed away unexpectedly in 2021, instilled a passion for baseball early on in their upbringing. Growing up in Dallas, the Texas Rangers reigned supreme in their household. 
“My siblings and I would pick up games or play catch in the backyard and our dad would always have the Rangers game on,” says Jose.  “That’s just who we were – we stuck together in whatever we did.  Our dad sort of served as the glue and was good at including all of us.  That’s how we were raised.” 
The Rodriguez Family celebrated big this past November during game five of the 2023 World Series when the Texas Rangers won for the first time in franchise history. 
“It was a big one, for sure,” says Jose.  “Really wish Dad could have seen that himself.”  
Jose with his sister at the Keeton Park PGA Jr. Opportunity League. (Ryan Lochhead)
Jose with his sister at the Keeton Park PGA Jr. Opportunity League. (Ryan Lochhead)
Naturally, for the Rodriguez’s, the game of golf has continued its trickle-down effect as the three sisters have also caught the bug.  This past fall, the girls were able to enjoy the game at no cost to their family by way of the PGA Jr. Opportunity League at Keeton Park – one of the first of its kind in the country. 
Funded by the PGA of America REACH Foundation, the Opportunity League is offering boys and girls from the surrounding community a chance to learn and play the game of golf in a fun team-oriented environment at absolutely no cost to them or their families.  From transportation, sets of clubs, golf course access and beyond, the Opportunity League is designed to be an open door to the game of golf and so much more.  
In true Rodriguez Family-fashion, Jose even got the chance to step into the role of Coach for his three sisters throughout the duration of the sessions alongside Tony and the Keeton Park staff. Twice a week for six weeks, 25 boys and girls from the surrounding neighborhoods got to enjoy the game – many for the first time. 
Sisters Johanna and Millie with a fellow player during Opportunity League.
Sisters Johanna and Millie with a fellow player during Opportunity League.
“I remember when I was seven or eight, I came to the golf course for the first time with my brothers and hit my first golf ball,” recalls Johanna with a beaming smile. “Driving is definitely my favorite part.”  Millie quickly inserts her answer to the same question with a simple but excited, “Playing!”  Janet admits that it was really tough at first to get outside of her comfort zone going to PGA Jr. League. 

“I think I can describe it best as finding happiness."

Janet Rodriguez, who plays with her sisters in the Opportunity League.
“I felt like I was able to get closer to my sisters and really bond over the game of golf," says Janet.  "Also, it was pretty funny watching my sisters try to hit the ball, but then at the end of PGA Jr. League they were making contact and we were all having a good time.”
Adds Jose: “This isn’t something that just my brother and I do, but something my whole family can do together. That’s how we were raised and Dad always made sure we could do activities as a family.” 
The five siblings’ mother, Maria, says she’s very grateful for the way her family has stuck together – even through an unthinkable tragedy. 
“I’m just really proud that they have all been able to find something they love to do together as a family again,” says Maria, getting choked up.  “That’s how their father would want it.” 
(Ryan Lochhead)
(Ryan Lochhead)
The siblings honor their father on and off the golf course.  Most notably, Janet, Johanna and Millie all share the number ‘42’ on their PGA Jr. League jerseys – representing the age their father passed away. 
It all starts with an invitation
For Tony, watching the sisters blossom and slowly come out of their shells during the course of each session is the grand idea behind PGA Jr. League.  Moreover, it’s why he wanted to bring the Opportunity League to Keeton Park. 
“To me, Keeton Park represents an on-ramp to the game,” says Tony.  “This league became an extension of what our core values are as a municipal course and partner with the City of Dallas.  We focus on building community here and that’s something we’ve always stayed committed to.
Tony Martinez, PGA, sees the impact first-hand of the Opportunity League. (Ryan Lochhead)
Tony Martinez, PGA, sees the impact first-hand of the Opportunity League. (Ryan Lochhead)
“For our team, it’s all about growing our family. This opportunity just happens to be one of countless ways we try to implement this mission – family first, plain and simple.  Jose became part of the Keeton Park family, therefore his family is part of our family and so on.”  
Tony believes it stems back to a simple invitation.  He says there may be others in the surrounding neighborhoods who don't necessarily know that Keeton Park is for them, too. 
“I can’t say it enough, the invitation from me is helpful.  The invitation from Jose, Eric, Janet, Johanna, and Millie to their friends and neighbors – that’s invaluable," says Tony. "We’re not out here looking for golfers, but rather, we’re looking for kids who are willing to give golf a try. That’s the opportunity to impact the next generation both on and off the golf course.”
(Ryan Lochhead)
(Ryan Lochhead)
Jose’s journey in the game has sparked a new dream even he didn’t realize was possible. 
“Thanks to what this place has done for me and my family, I can now see myself perhaps becoming a PGA Master Professional one day,” says Jose.  “It’s a new lifeline and perhaps a chance to set an example for my siblings to follow in my footsteps or inspire them to create a new path all their own.”
As one might expect for the Rodríguezes, golf is now a full-fledged family affair thanks to the PGA Jr. Opportunity League, who’s namesake tells the story all its own.  However, they all know their legacy goes far beyond a game.  When asked what their father would say about where they are now, Eric answered without hesitation: “He would be very proud.” 
“Golf has helped our family move forward together.  Our Dad wouldn't want it any other way for us,” adds Jose.  “Whether it's in baseball or golf, we all just want to succeed in his name, not just our own.  We’re all together and that’s what is most important.”

PGA Jr. League is committed to enriching lives through golf as the flagship youth pillar program of the PGA of America REACH Foundation. We envision a world in which PGA Jr. League is accessible to every child, everywhere, regardless of background or circumstance. Learn more about our mission and give today at