For Jordan McKelvy, a successful PGA Jr. League program isn’t about flashy events or expensive celebrations. It’s about having fun.
“If there was one word to describe our PGA Jr. League program, it would be fun,” said McKelvy, PGA Assistant Golf Professional at St. Louis Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri. “We just try to make it where the kids are having a great time, that they’re ecstatic to get out there.”
And McKelvy’s approach is working.
During 2020’s COVID-stunted season, the St. Louis Country Club registered 29 players. This year, McKelvy already has more than 50 players signed up. He credits a few simple choices—all centered around investing in his players and inspiring a lifetime love for the sport—with the program’s success.
“Our main goal is to involve and engage the entire family in the game of golf,” McKelvy said. “So, we put a scoreboard together with all the kids’ names in orange and blue. The kids get so excited before and after a match, seeing their name up there.”
That one small addition created excitement among players and parents, McKelvy says. Players started to stick around after matches to check out the final score —“They want to know if they won!”—and rather than dropping their kids off, parents began to stay at the club.
“Parents are now more engaged,” McKelvy said. “They’re following the duration of the matches to watch their kids. The kids want their parents out there.”
McKelvy also recognizes the value of “simple add-ons” designed to create a greater sense of community among players.
“After matches, we’ll have ice cream,” McKelvy said, pointing out that players and their families tend to stick around after the match to enjoy the treat. “We’ll have ice cream sandwiches, ice cream cones. A little ice cream treat after they’re finished really helps the players perk up a bit if they didn’t play well.”
Mentoring also plays a vital role in McKelvy’s engagement strategy. While he makes sure to mix up pairings frequently, he’s also intentional about pairing players with less experience with those who’ve played longer.
“We want our older kids to be mentors for younger juniors so they can learn the game and hopefully help them get better,” McKelvy said. “Our new players don’t have to get down on themselves then because they know their partners can hit better shots, and they still get to play a part in winning a match for their team.”
Another recent addition to St. Louis Country Club’s PGA Jr. League program: an end-of-year tournament and awards dinner.
“We had a lot of participation,” McKelvy said. “It’s a parent/child alternate shot putting competition on the front nine of the course.”
The tournament is open to all interested parents and children and followed by a pizza dinner during which McKelvy celebrates the achievements of PGA Jr. League players. The recognition piques the interest of players who aren’t part of PGA Jr. League, he says.
Overall, McKelvy is encouraged by the changes he’s seen and excited about the future.
“Our club is very family-oriented and with PGA Jr. League growing, we're starting to see a lot of parents bringing their kids out and playing,” McKelvy said. “That's awesome to see. I think in the next few years, we'll have juniors coming out with other juniors and playing nine holes, and we’re already seeing some of our juniors play in tournaments by themselves. Our hope is that if a kid sees their friend playing PGA Jr. League, they’ll ask ‘Why am I not playing?’”
And that’s all a PGA Jr. League Captain could hope for.