Inside Events: The National High School Golf Association (NHSGA)
6 Mar, 2019By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Matt Weinberger, NHSGA Commissioner
The National High School Golf Association (NHSGA) is an organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of high school golfers across the United States. The NHSGA was developed to unite high school golfers by providing regional and state high school results, ranking teams and individuals, and providing access to unbiased information on college recruiting, coaching and equipment discounts.
The NHSGA will host the 2019 High School Golf National Invitational this June at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with 124 girls and 224 boys in their respective fields. The boys’ tournament will take place on the Palm and Magnolia courses, while the girls’ tournament will play at Falcon’s Fire Golf Club located adjacent to the Disney Property in Orlando. Both will be two-day, 36-hole stroke play events including team and individual prizes and recognition.
This invitation-only event recognizes state champions (both teams and individual medalists) in each state. Whether schools are public or private, big or small, the event provides a platform for all high school golfers to compete on a national scale.
Sports Destination Management: The National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA), which we profiled previously, is organized by Nextgengolf, the organization that also supports the NHSGA. What was the impetus to support high school golfers?
Matt Weinberger: Nextgengolf is the leading entity for young adult golfers. We support three team-based golf organizations, the newest being the National High School Golf Association (NHSGA). It came about because we wanted to market collegiate club golf to high school kids so parents and students can make better college decisions. Our CEO, Kris Hart, really spearheaded the team’s work to benchmark all state and regional tournaments across the country and develop a leaderboard system to better showcase the 220,000+ high school girls and boys playing on their high school teams. Prior to the NHSGA, there was no national ranking system for teams and players in different states and it was very difficult to find high school golf results.
SDM: It sounds like an even bigger challenge to overcome has been raising awareness of golf at the high school level.
Weinberger: It has been. If you asked most people, even the most knowledgeable people in the industry, they don’t know much about high school golf. For many states golf is at the bottom of the barrel in terms of sports being promoted by high school associations. Golf is a non-revenue sport. Sports like football or basketball are the moneymakers.
SDM: Something unique about your organization is that its focus is not so much on finding the next group of touring pros but on building excitement and competitiveness among high school players.
Weinberger: When you look at the golf industry, what you see is that many people tend to pay attention to the best golfers – who they are and where they play. We like to say that we focus “on the rest, not just the best.” Those are the people who are critical for the industry to continue to grow and prosper.
SDM: In other words, the ones who will do the buying of equipment and apparel and paying to play rounds.
Weinberger: Exactly. We wanted to give those people an identity. Everyone wants the sport to grow. But in looking at the statistics, we realized that only about eight percent of those high school golfers go on to play varsity golf in college. Why is the golf industry not following this segment of the population? We wanted to get the other 92 percent excited about traveling and competing on their high school teams so that they take their game with them to college and play the rest of their lives.
SDM: What has the response been like so far?
Weinberger: We’ve seen a very positive response. The players and the coaches really love seeing that someone cares about high school golf. The kids enjoy seeing how their teams stack up on a national level.
SDM: Your site includes not only all the high school teams but a list of when each state holds its tournament, as well as information on the High School Golf National Invitational, which will be held in June in Orlando. What’s registration for that looking like right now?
Weinberger: We have a total of 348 girls and boys playing, which makes it the largest high school golf event in the country.
SDM: Do you think it’ll open the door for people to learn about collegiate golf?
Weinberger: Yes. High school results should complement collegiate golf results. Having a large national tournament of some of the best high school players will certainly give students a much-needed look by college coaches.
Some coaches are excited about the National Invitational. Ideally, high school golfers can make better informed decisions about the next chapter of their lives (varsity golf or not). Students and parents should understand all factors when making a college decision including scholastics, scholarships, varsity and club golf offerings, etc. We want them to know about the golf opportunities that exist at different schools, no matter whether they want to play at the NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA or the club level.
SDM: What made you choose Florida in general, and specifically Orlando, for the tournament?
Weinberger: Florida is a golf state. We needed three courses and we wanted a great place for high school students and their families – and we have experience hosting championships with Disney in the past. We know players and families will have a great experience.
SDM: And it’s near the end of the school year.
Weinberger: Yes, all state championships are complete in June and most schools are not in session.
SDM: Do many of your players also belong to the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA)? Do you guys work together in this space?
Weinberger: Many of the top-ranked players in each state play in AJGA tournaments. We really admire the AJGA;, they do a great job providing competitive grounds to build up the next generation of elite golfers. We really complement the AJGA by focusing on the rest, which gives us great grounds to support one another. We’re both interested in growing the game. Bottom line: junior golf and high school golf need to work more closely together.
SDM: Do you see yourself offering more tournaments as you move forward?
Weinberger: Possibly. Our focus right now is on running a really, successful National Invitational – providing a great experience for everyone. We’ll take a deep breath once it’s done – evaluate several factors and continue to make an impact in high school golf. The good news is that there is a lot of room to grow and a lot of high school golfers who deserve some love.
Editor’s note: Destinations interested in hosting high school golf events should contact Matt Weinberger at email@example.com.