As we approach the coming year and make plans for 2015, I wanted to share with you our club’s experience with PGA Junior League. It was our first year participating, and it was the most successful endeavor we took upon all year. For those of you who host PGA Junior Leagues at your facilities, I would bet that you have similar stories and successes. But for those of you that haven’t yet, I urge you to consider hosting a team (or two) in 2015.   You will be thankful that you did.

We registered our team with the PGA and a box showed up full of jerseys, golf balls, bag tags, scoring sheets, and some PGA Junior League branded promotional materials. At our first practice, we passed out the jerseys and watched the kids faces light up. I forgot how much fun and how big of a deal to kids it is to pick your jersey number. One junior yelled that he wanted to be “Ronaldo” and someone else yelled “Shotgun” to get the first pick. After a little PGA Pro coordination, every junior had a jersey and a smile. The team was born.

We explained the matches and the way the league works. Parents looked anxiously over our shoulders as we started practicing with the kids. We picked partners, made plans, and started making strategies. Weaknesses were improved, strengths built upon, fundamentals developed, and teamwork was promoted. By the end of a few practices, we were ready for our first match. Or so I thought.

Continued…

We are in a league in Portland with 3 other clubs. Each club takes its turn hosting a match play against another club, a home and home so to speak. Our team of juniors got to play 6 matches in the Metro. We hosted our first match, and wouldn’t you know it – it rained that day. Unlike in Little League, there was no makeup game. Parents and pros pumped up the kids, umbrellas were opened, dry towels and cocoa was brewed, and the first shot was struck.

By the end of the day, it seemed that no one lost that match. Everyone took away a win. The kids, drenched from head to toe, came off the course with smiles on their faces. Both teams. You couldn’t have told who won or lost. They all played great, and the match came down to the final putt. 60 people gathered around the 9th green to watch the 8 foot slider hit the bottom of the cup. High fives, fist pumps, and a roar went across the golf course. What just happened!? As the kids headed under cover outside the pro shop to dry off and get out of the rain, the parents approached us, one by one, and thanked every golf professional that was involved, from both clubs. The gratitude was the most sincere I have ever experienced while working in this profession. I have never felt so good about a job well done. The kids came up and eagerly asked, “When is our next match? Tomorrow?” It shocked me how much this meant to these families. It overwhelmed all of us.

I hope this little story paints a small picture of what it is like to host a Junior League team. My pro shop staff were heroes the entire season. We promoted our PGA Junior League through our normal Junior Program. Yes, it was a little more money to participate, but the “bang for the buck” was incredible for the families involved. Every family that takes part is more engaged in our club now. They buy more merchandise from us, bring those kids out to play, eat, and spend time at the club. It’s the most successful program of the PGA that I have seen incorporated into our club. I can’t wait until 2015.

Happy New Year to you. I hope you find time to put this resolution on your list.

Bryan Tunstill