Golf

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The American Junior Golf Association

25 Apr, 2019

By: Stephen A. Hamblin

The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. It has a membership of 7,000 from all 50 states and in 60 countries. In 2018, the AJGA put on 120 tournaments.

Sports Destination Management: There have been a number of initiatives to bring youth into the sport. Do you think they’re working?
Stephen Hamblin: Junior golf is in the best place it has ever been because you have programs like Youth on Course, Drive, Chip and Putt, LPGA Girls Golf and others. There is also a lot more attention being given to juniors at the state and regional level; we’re seeing a number of competitive events for a variety of skill levels. It’s great because this way, nobody has to travel very far to find good competition.

SDM: Speaking of programs like LPGA Girls Golf, are you seeing growth in the female demographic?
Hamblin: Yes, in fact, the fastest-growing segment of our membership is girls. When I started here in 1984, only 10 percent of our membership was female. Now. It’s up to 30 percent.

SDM: Do you think having golf in the Olympics has helped grow the game and make it appeal to kids?
Hamblin: Yes – it used to be an American and European game, but I think now, it’s more of a global game and it’s growing quite well.

SDM: What about places like Topgolf? Do you think they factor into the growth of the sport?
Hamblin: Yes, they do! I think kids can go there, hit the ball at a target, get a Coke and have fun with their friends. You don’t have to worry about a dress code or having the right equipment; you can just show up and have fun. I went there with my daughter not long ago and right next to us were these kids who looked like skateboarders. They were having a ball.

SDM: Going back to the mission of AJGA, which is to help those kids who aspire to go to college on golf scholarships, what kinds of numbers are you seeing there?
Hamblin: Some of the numbers that have been important to us is that 96 to 97 percent of our participants go on to college, and 70 to 75 percent of them earn an athletic scholarship. If you want to compare that to other numbers, Wilson Sporting Goods did a study 10 or 12 years ago to measure how many high school athletes went to college via an athletic scholarship, and the number they came up with was two percent. Even using our lower number of 70 percent, we are accomplishing our mission. And for us, seeing kids get into college is very important. It’s really neat to see them on signing day; we ask for them to send us pictures saying where they’re going, and we post that.

SDM: Sounds like the AJGA uses social media to communicate.
Hamblin: Oh, yes, the kids are extremely active on that, especially at tournaments. There is a lot of buzz. If we have boys’ and girls’ tournaments going on at the same time, the kids always want us to do a webcast so they can keep up with one another and see how everyone is doing.

SDM: Do you do livestreaming?
Hamblin: We do live scoring. The amount of coverage we can do will vary, depending on our volunteer support. We have looked into some streaming but right now, it’s not resonating with us. Golf is more complex in that regard; it does not have the confined field of play that other sports do.

SDM: It seems like a lot of players on the pro tours are involved in bringing up the next generation.
Hamblin: Golf is a very giving sport and we’re seeing a real phenomenon whereby these young golf pros are coming into the PGA and LPGA tours and immediately creating a foundation and giving back. In fact, if you look at our schedule, you’ll see 20 to 25 tournaments sponsored by PGA and LPGA pros. We really applaud what these young men and women are doing. SDM

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