PGA Professionals Tom VanHoogen and Angel Diaz are changing lives in the Myrtle Beach area through golf. I had the opportunity to speak with them both recently to get a glimpse at the great work they are doing in their area.
Tom VanHoogen is the Head Golf Professional at both the River Club and Founders Club in Myrtle Beach, SC. He is also the chair for the Grand Strand PGA REACH chapter. Angel is the Director of Project Golf and assists Gary Schaal, who is the PGA Hope Lead for the Myrtle Beach Chapter.
Angel Diaz, PGA, became a PGA Professional after a career in the military and coached PGA Jr League while he worked at a private club in Murrells Inlet. In 2021, he became involved with PGA HOPE, which uses golf as a tool for helping our nations veterans. Angel became the Director of Project Golf, a non-profit, growth of the game initiative that has been in place since 2019. Project Golf introduces golf to those interested in learning with an emphasis on underprivileged Juniors and Veterans. Project Golf introduced 260 new golfers to the Myrtle Beach market in 2021.
“What was missing from that demographic was a junior program,” said VanHoogen. During their time in the Myrtle Beach area, Tom and Angel have both worked and been involved in PGA Junior League and PGA REACH.
“We both have a strong drive to promote the game of golf and to give back to the community. We have both coached in the PGA Junior League and we realized that there is a large market of kids in Myrtle Beach that have little to no chance to play golf, so we are focused on how we can grow the game for juniors who wouldn’t have access to a driving range or golf course,” Tom said.
“My experience working at a private club helped prepare me for my role with PGA HOPE, and PGA Jr League…it helped me understand how to remove barriers and introduce people to the game,” Diaz explained.
“Ever since Angel took on this role, we have worked together to find underprivileged youth who can benefit from this wonderful game we all enjoy,” said VanHoogen.
Tom and Angel did their first 4-week afterschool junior program in the Spring of 2022, and it went very well, as expected.
“Seeing the results of what PGA HOPE, PGA Jr League, and our after-school junior program had, and the impact it made on individuals, inspired us to continue this journey in hopes to gain more local community support to help shape the lives of those most in need.”
Today, the pair are aiming to grow a PGA Jr. League program with a focus on serving underprivileged youth in the Myrtle Beach area.
“Our goals are to introduce and expose kids to the game of golf who would otherwise not have a chance to play. This will help grow the game of golf but more importantly it will help grow these young kid's confidence and experiences in life,” Diaz said.
VanHoogen went on to say, “Right now, we are in the beginning stages. Ultimately, we envision multiple PGA Jr League golf programs throughout the Grand Strand that cater to underprivileged youth. Those same youth will eventually become advocates for golf and will share their experience with others who may not know the game or the solace it brings to people who play it.”