Get Smart: Junior Golf
TGA Premier Golf is building a path to shape future participation in golf.
One of the game’s leading introductory golf programs, TGA (Teach, Grow, Achieve) is seeking to make a difference through its after-school golf enrichment programs and, perhaps just as importantly, what happens next.
In an industry that’s been seeking a clear road map for junior golf participation, TGA has introduced what it calls its Player Pathway. TGA’s five-level introductory golf program begins on school campuses and community centers – planting the seeds for participation – and then TGA’s Player Pathway funnels kids into partner golf courses running camps, parent-child events and leagues, as well as becoming a feeder system into national programs such as Drive, Chip and Putt, PGA Junior League, LPGA*USGA Girls Golf, Youth on Course, and U.S. Kids Golf’s events.
TGA has partnered with hundreds of local golf courses and driving ranges to help bridge its participants, 70% of whom have never played golf before, from introductory programs to more traditional recreational golf programs. It’s a dedicated effort to improve the interaction between programs and, ultimately, grow the game.
“We are at the base of the pyramid that feeds into all the other areas and initiatives in the game,” says TGA Chief Executive Joshua Jacobs.
The nation’s only youth sports franchise model dedicated to golf, TGA is now in more than 3,400 schools and facilities, introducing more than 740,000 kids to the game. The First Tee youth organization reaches more than 5 million kids annually and its National School Program is in more than 10,000 elementary schools across the United States.
In the 1950’s, it was caddie programs that helped bring kids into golf, building a foundation of Baby Boomer golfers. TGA Premier’s hope is that its programs in schools and community centers, which give kids early exposure to golf, help build a similar base of future participants.
“Kids who started with TGA are now playing high school golf, becoming TGA coaches and life-long golfers, which is very gratifying to see,” Jacobs added.
Currently, the Drive, Chip and Putt program has been the biggest benefactor from TGA because of the younger age groups that can participate. PGA Junior League is also seeing an increase in participants funneled from TGA after they’ve been introduced to the game — usually after they’ve gone through the upper levels of the five-level TGA programs.
In North Bay, California, Sherman Leland has been running TGA programs for 10 years and has encouraged a large contingent of students to participate in Drive, Chip and Putt as well as the Youth on Course program. Leland hands out information on Youth on Course’s subsidized golf initiative to all of his TGA students. Among those who have come through his TGA introductory program and gone on to the next levels of competition is Lucy Li, who at 11 qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
In the Detroit area, more than 100 students from TGA of Southeast Michigan have participated in Drive, Chip and Putt over the past two years, with over 25 advancing beyond the local stage. One of the program’s most successful students, Danielle Staskowski, who started with Dave Robinson’s TGA program in 2009 when she was 7, just won back-to-back state high school golf championships. She’s now doing her part to grow the game by coaching TGA classes.
In Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, TGA Premier Golf franchise owner Maryann Von Seggern has helped introduce thousands of kids to the game. Over the past two summers, she’s had over 1,200 students go through TGA summer camps, most of them at the nearby Knights Play Golf Center that has a fully-illuminated par-3 course and a 60-station driving range.
Kevin Jones, the owner and PGA professional of Knights Play, sees first-hand how TGA can impact facilities and grow the game.
“Programs like TGA bring out so many kids and families, providing not only a nice revenue source for us, but also creating the critical future customers we need,” Jones says. “We even get some of the kids ending up working for us and helping out the programs which is really exciting.”
Call it part of the TGA Player Pathway.
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