Golf programs tailor-made for junior.

Parents and coaches will see, early and often, the signs of a child who shows authentic interest in the game of golf. They’ll speak about it with an enthusiastic demeanor. They’ll ask to go out to the driving range, park or backyard to work on their swing and technique. And, after a successful or trying round of golf, they’ll either ask for suggestions, or will be open to understanding how to improve their game.

It’s a beautiful thing to see a child begin to flourish, and become dedicated to a sport they intrinsically enjoy. As the fundamentals of the game improve with each youth golfer, it is equally important that the education of integrity, moral character and sportsmanship be molded, too, particularly with a game that is dependent on honesty and proper etiquette. Locally, nationally and internationally rising junior golf programs and leagues are designed to heighten skill level, but more importantly, shape young golfers’ perception and respect for the game and competition.

Here are a few junior golf programs that are held in high esteem, designed to impress upon youth golfers all the attributes their game needs to grow in the right direction.

OAHU JUNIOR GOLF

The oldest junior golf league in Hawaiʻi, Oahu Junior Golf Association—formerly Hawaiʻi Junior Golf Association—was established as a non-profit in 1966, and remains an instrumental portal for Hawaiʻi youth golfers who seek to enhance their skill set, knowledge and appreciation for golf.

“We try to introduce as many juniors as we can to the lifelong game of golf. We want to develop their knowledge of the game, and connect young golfers through tournament play here on OÊ»ahu,” says OJGA president Norman Asao.

OJGA is not a school of golf. They don’t offer lessons or tutorials. OJGA is designed specifically to organize youth tournaments, and train young golfers to handle the rigors of tournament play in a respectable manner.

Hole #12 on the Ryder Course at PGA Golf Club photographed on July 9, 2011 in Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA. (Photo by Brian Oar)

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“We’re designed to instill the kids with the basic play, rules and etiquette of golf and tournaments. We guide kids to be tournament ready, whether they compete in high school, are traveling to the mainland, or in college. Basically, we get them ready for the pressures that can come with tournament play,” Asao adds.

The majority of OJGA’s tournaments are played on OÊ»ahu, at some of OÊ»ahu’s premier golf courses, including Turtle Bay, Bay View Golf Course and Pearl Country Club.

Comparing OÊ»ahu’s youth golfers to national and international players, Asao says, “We’re very competitive, especially the last 10 years or so. There may have been a lull for a few years, but I see HawaiÊ»i golfers coming back with a vengeance, we have a very talented pool of kids.”

HAWAII STATE JUNIOR GOLF ASSOCIATION Organized to offer minimal cost to parents of youth golfers, Hawaii State Junior Golf Association—founded in 1998—provides an environment where youth golfers can enjoy the game at the pace and progress of their choosing.

With decades of experience, HSJGA was founded by established PGA professionals and island-based golf instructors, including Norman Asao, Merv Kotake, Greg Nichols and Mary Bea Porter-King. With growth each year, HSJGA now has over 750 members, opening golfers to an expansive list of opportunities, including specialized workshops, mental and physical training clinics, USGA rules clinics, junior tour series and entry into competitive national and international events.

With the tagline “Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders, One Swing at a Time,” HSJGA works to help youth members get noticed by collegiate programs around the country. Partnering with established organizations in HawaiÊ»i’s business community, HSJGA offers scholarship opportunities for high school students with a vested interested in golf.

HSJGA hosts over 40 tournaments per year in Hawaiʻi, and membership is open to golfers ages 7 to 18 who possess a basic understanding of the game and rules.

PGA JUNIOR LEAGUE GOLF

With a penchant for continually broadening the scope and reach golf has in the U.S., PGA’s Junior League Golf program allows for kids across the country to get a taste of what the professional tour is all about, while incorporating a fun, youth-friendly tourney format.

PGA Junior League Golf was born when founder Bob Longmire was watching the Little League World Series of baseball, and thought to himself why doesn’t golf have a similar regional, countrywide tournament, culminating in a national championship. Beginning with four select markets in Atlanta, Tampa, Dallas and San Diego in 2011, PGA Junior League Golf has grown to all 41 PGA sections with 1,500 teams participating. And yes, HawaiÊ»i has representation, as the Aloha Section consisted of nine teams in 2014.

“The response the past few years has been fantastic. We doubled our growth this year compared to 2013. Our goal is to hit 25,000 kids next year, and incrementally bump that up to 50,000 by 2016,” says PGA director of league golf Steve Tanner.

Any PGA member has the opportunity to create and qualify a team for the PGA Junior League. Most teams consist of 9 to 12 youth golfers. Each tournament is set in a two-person scramble format, where two golfers from each team play individual holes. Each tournament consists of nine hole matches, broken down into three hole “flags,” allowing for strategic player substitutions and team strategizing, as teams can utilize the individual strengths of team members throughout a match.

“PGA golf is all about providing a recreational and structured format for kids to enjoy the game,” says Tanner. “I think what is really valuable is that we have that team element that sits on top of the intrinsic life values of teamwork, honesty and integrity we look to instill in the kids.”

INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR GOLF TOUR

What started as a six-student golf academy in 1995, has flourished into a junior golf tour featuring over 60 tour events at some of the best golf venues throughout the U.S., Canada, Bermuda and Scotland.

IJGT founder Ray Travaglione recognized early it is one thing to be able to teach young golfers the fundamentals and skill techniques of the game, but without the challenge of competition, instructors and students have no tangible way to gauge their progress. From that philosophy, Travaglione and staff created a competitive experience that honored golf ‘s attributes, codes and ethics.

Substantial connections with college coaches throughout the country, IJGT is a fantastic facilitator for young golfers to become noticed by university and college programs. Their college and mental training programs allow golfers to receive proper exposure to universities, as well as help educate them on how to advance their skill sets both on the course and in the classroom.

IJGT welcomes amateur golfers, ages 9 to 19, to compete in three, age-ranged divisions.

HAWAII STATE JUNIOR GOLF ASSOCIATION
hsjga.org

INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR GOLF TOUR
ijgt.com

OAHU JUNIOR GOLF
ojga.com

PGA JUNIOR LEAGUE GOLF
pgajrleaguegolf.com