JUNIOR GOLF 

     Junior golf is expensive to play, and navigating the junior golf tournament tours can be equally financially burdensome without some helpful tips. Whatever a junior chooses to do with the game of golf is ultimately their decision; please know there are opportunities to play for all skill levels. Junior golf tours exist locally, regionally, and nationally. The common theme in all junior golf tours is they provide a venue for kids to compete and test their games on incredible courses against varying levels of competition.

    A junior could literally play a junior golf tournament somewhere every weekend throughout the year, and during the summer months it is possible to play a tournament almost daily. Here is a sample of what a beginner junior golfer in the Atlanta market can expect as they embark on their junior tournament journey.

    Remember playing lots of tournaments isn’t necessary to earn a college scholarship, but they are fun and competitive. Choosing the right tournaments is equally as important as choosing the amount of tournaments. Juniors have a shelf life, and understanding your junior’s body and mental capacities may determine how many tournaments a kid plays each month or season.

    In order to stay competitive and perfect your child’s passion, golf is really played year round which includes a healthy dose of tournament golf, practice time on the range, practice time on the course, golf rounds, and doing drills in the comfort of your home. Make it a point to swing a club daily and putt on the carpet when a trip to the course is impossible. Since golf is played year round, you can bet bet that tournaments are hosted year round as well.

     The First Tee programs offer kids an introduction to golf at a very affordable price. Consider playing the PGA Junior League and sign up for The Drive, Chip, and Putt National free competition to have some fun playing junior golf. This option is great early on just to see if your junior likes golf or even has an interest in the game. U.S. kids Golf is the best tour for the young kids just getting going to gauge their aptitude and desire to play. Ask for John or Greg, two directors, overseeing the Atlanta tour when you call to enroll. Caddies are allowed, and the yardages are generally short. U.S. Kids is a good place to start your junior golf journey, and they offer a world championship too, and entry to worlds is based on scores, points, and qualifying results. Atlanta Junior Golf is another great place to play as the tour offers 9 hole, 18 hole, one and two day tournaments in the beginner, club, and open divisions and is very affordable. Caddies are allowed in the beginner and 9 and 18 hole club divisions. Caddies are not allowed in the open division on Atlanta Junior Golf.  Some policies may have changed over the years,and always check websites for current information or call the office to confirm information. You don’t have to travel to events in other states at first to compete, and many tournaments are close by the house which saves on lodging, food, gas, and extra greens fees.

     Remember competitive golf is hard and please keep it fun. These kids can’t receive enough praise, and they will look to you for support and validation. Standing on the cart path watching or caddying for your kid gives you a great vantage point of hindsight. Golf seems easy at times as you watch your junior compete, and you might wonder why your child is messing up. A thumbs up, a comforting word or encouraging phrase will go a long way in ensuring your child plays golf for a lifetime and be patient as the kids are doing the best that they can. Watching golf is much harder for the parents than the kids playing the round. Kids have a short memory and will move on very quickly after their round is completed.  Your smile lets your junior know it is just a game, and you will see their confidence grow the more they play. The junior golf journey is a marathon not a sprint. Please don’t get too high or too low. There will be another shot, round, tournament, and lesson soon to follow that great or poor shot and round. Keep them playing, and keep it fun. Your child takes cues from you, and please don’t be the reason your child stops playing golf. Golf is very hard, and competitive golf is especially tough for the newcomer.

       Keep your expectations to a minimum at first. The goal here is to foster the love of golf, and when the game is interwoven in your kid’s mind and heart, they will want to play and beg you to take them. Remember golf is a game. Many factors go into raising a champion such as talent, commitment, support, practice, and fun factor. Some kids may just get golf without much effort, and you might get discouraged watching others perform at a high level as your beginner struggles to play the game like the stars. Every player develops at their own pace, and you can’t speed up the harvest or control when your kid peaks.

Other regional tours are: The Georgia PGA, Scott Gordon, Junior Golf Director. Peggy Kirk Bell Golf Tour and Southeastern Junior Golf Tour, Todd Thompson Director. Consider The Athens Area Junior Golf Tour as a good resource to learn how to win. The fields are not very large and low scores are not required to win. One of the biggest expenses in junior golf is the membership fees associated with these tours. Some tours allow kids to play without becoming a member, but the cost per tournament will be higher. Make sure your child will play enough on each tour to validate the membership fee. Being a member of multiple junior golf tours ensures your child will have ample opportunities to compete and play the best competition. Some golf clubs offer discounted rates for some events on certain tours or for families with multiple kids playing the same tournament. The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour for example gives a special rate to play its Clubcorp/Canongate series of tournaments. Membership dues are normally discounted if multiple siblings sign up to play the same junior tour. This is a big incentive to joining this tour. Please view a list of websites, phone numbers, and contact us links at the end of this document.

     The next step in the competitive junior golf tournament world is seeking out a national tour that offers strong play without caddies. Parents also called caddies on The U.S. kids Tour and Atlanta Junior Golf regional Tour will assume most of the responsibility of playing a round, but in time, the junior will need to be totally responsible for his or her game without any help from the parent. U.S Kids Golf and Atlanta Junior Golf also offers playing opportunities for small kids up through their teenage years, and you will have to decide how competitive your journey will be.

    The HJGT, Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, is my personal favorite. Our junior played this tour for three years, and for the money this tour offers the best value as far as the access to private clubs. Mario Conte is the director, and please let him know that James, Julie, and Skylar Thompson referred you.  The HJGT offers varying age brackets for all skill levels, and players may play up into an older division if they are able to compete at a higher level. This tour will be your first interaction with college golf coaches, and we will get to that later in the essay. Parents can expect two rounds of tournament golf, access to a practice round which might be included in your tournament fee, some kind of a towel, hat, or other gift and a fun filled time playing competitive golf. The gifts given to the players are called swag, and you get what you pay for. The more prominent the junior tour and prestigious the event, the better the swag, and most tours have some sort of sponsorship agreement with the tours to help with expenses. These tours rely heavily on volunteers, and please treat them with dignity and thankfulness as they make your tournament experience run smoothly.

     Consider a high state and national ranking as submitted to Junior Golf Scoreboard and Polo ranking from The American Junior Golf Association as a primary goal of playing junior golf. Your junior’s National golf ranking will be a major asset when being recruited by a college golf program. The years of experience that have gone into this essay are meant to save you money, frustration, and to help maximize your junior golf experience. Many parents won’t help you navigate these areas because you have entered the competitive world of junior golf, and no one wants your kid to have an edge. There are plenty of college scholarship dollars available to players of all levels, and to help grow the game and give back is the primary goal of this paper. Again, golf is hard, and trying to figure out where and when to play what tours can drive you crazy.

    The best piece of advice ever given was bring your junior along at their pace. This means simply let them win some and learn how to close and play with the lead. Stretch them by taking some hard beats, and this will show them what lies ahead against stiffer completion. Never have the junior continually play above their level and get beat every time; this leads to frustration and self-doubt. Every kid loves to hoist a trophy for winning no matter what their score is. Some tournaments may only have two or three players, but a win is a win. Play the course not the players in the field and measure your score against the slope and rating of the course not against the players in the field. This lesson is valuable, and you will understand why this is important to a new tournament player as you set realistic tournament golf goals. Get off the range and go play with friends or have little competitions against other kids at your club. Reward good play, and it is very important that your child realizes that hard work is the pillar to becoming a great golfer. Teaching your junior to control their emotions is paramount in golf, and a little contest will strengthen your child’s resolve to deal with stress and pressure.

     Inevitably, you will ask ”what does it mean when the winner of a tournament gets four stars and the top three gets one star”. Tournaments are broken down into several ranking categories. First is Junior Golf scoreboard. A tournament must be contested over two rounds and have a minimum amount of players to be ranked by Junior Golf Scoreboard. Next is Polo ranked, and that is the ranking system of American Junior Golf. Thirdly, some tournaments are golf week ranked, and visit www.ajga.org and play around to understand the vast amount of information at your disposal. Don’t chase stars, rather develop your junior’s game, and the stars will come. Use your stars for starts on AJGA when your player is ready to finish in the top half of the field or win not just because you have earned them. Stars are good for two seasons on AJGA so don’t be in a hurry to play at that level if your game isn’t ready. AJGA offers tournaments featuring some of the world’s best girls and those higher scores that earned shiny trophies early in your kid’s career won’t beat those fields. As you pick tournaments and tours to play, make sure your needs are met. In order to maximize your money, make sure you have a basic golf plan for your junior and an understanding of how the various tours work with the hierarchy of rankings and featured tournaments. It is possible to spend a lot of money playing tournaments and not really gain any status on other tours. AJGA events are recommended to play if your junior hopes to earn some of the better scholarships and potential professional endeavors, but you must earn status on lower tier feeder tours.

      Establish a handicap as soon as possible to track golf rounds. This will help you compete in tournaments that have flights and some USGA events have a certain handicap number for entry.

    Think of junior golf like Super Mario Brothers. There will always be another level, world, and your princess will be in another castle. Better play in certain tournaments opens other prestigious playing opportunities. Your junior can take this game as far as they desire, and you can no longer say I am lost. You could wind up in invitational tournaments that your kid can’t just sign up for including The Junior Ryder Cup, Junior Solheim Cup, Wyndham Cup, and East West Junior.  Keep grinding and keep striving to use golf to accomplish your goals. You might just realize how much fun the journey was when it is over, and perhaps a lost parent will come to you and say please help my child play like yours. Always give back and take time to answer their questions. This information was freely given; share this information with another junior golf family so they may have the best results playing tournament golf.  Feel free to navigate the following websites for junior golf playing opportunities.  These links are listed in the order of logical progression as your junior matures into an advanced golfer. Golfers never travel the same path, but go play and start your journey today. Try to win at the local level first, then regional, then national and strive to be a world champion.

www.drivechipandputt.com    (National initiative to grow the game)

www.thefirsttee.org                  Detroit and other programs locally (national organization)

www.athensareajuniorgolftour)   local tour

www.pgajlg.com                         (national program promoting teamwork)

www.uskidsgolf.com                    Greg and John in Atlanta (national tour)

www.atlantajuniorgolf.org      now part of the Georgia State Golf Association (regional tour and might be Georgia residents only)

www.georgiapga.com                   Scott Gordon, Junior Golf Director (Georgia residents only)

www.SJGT.com                           Todd Thompson, Executive Director (regional tour)

www.PKBGT.org                        Peggy Kirk Bell Golf Tour                       (regional tour)

www.HJGT.org                              Mario Conte, Executive Director          (national tour)

www.IJGT.org                             International Junior Golf Tour in South Carolina    (regional tour)

www.GSGA.org                          Georgia State Golf Association                (Georgia residents only)

www.AJGA.org                          American Junior Golf Association            (national tour)

www.USGA.org                          United States Golf Association                 (national organization)

Feel free when reaching out to these organizations to mention our names as we know most of them personally. Our child has played on all of these tours and/or been a member of these organizations except for the IJGT an AAJGT, but we have received great reviews from others that we knows prompting us to endorse them. We are pleased to help these organizations grow and to serve the needs of our city, state, county, and country. We will forever be indebted to the countless professionals that helped our child earn a college scholarship and foster the love of golf in her heart. We are not experts on navigating junior golf, but we have enough personal experience to help any family get started. Feel free to email gatorfutbal@bellsouth.net for specific questions, but allow some time for a reply. This is a complimentary service, and we will try to offer any help that we can. We are also raising a top 10 Division 1 college golf prospect, and our time is limited as we help her progress.