College, high school, the Olympic and Ryder Cup teams all wear uniforms on the golf course, but only the PGA Junior League has numbers on theirs.
Several years ago, the PGA did some research and found they were losing many potential young golfers to other sports.
Little League sports of all kinds from soccer to basketball and baseball pulled kids away from the golf course.
The PGA Junior League was begun to bring those kids back to the golf course and hopefully keep them there as they grow up.
“It is a lot of fun for the kids and the uniforms give it a little something extra,” said Jeff Evatt, who heads up the Rolling Green team.
Rolling Green is part of a six team league. Oconee Country Club, Greenville Country Club, Carolina Springs, Southern Oaks, Cobb’s Glen and Rolling Green make up the Clemson region in South Carolina.
Golfers are ages 6 to 13, boys and girls and they play a modified captain’s choice format.
Each match is divided into four two-golfer team match play competitions. The total points of all four matches decide the winning team.
There is a triple-bogey maximum for any hole to help keep a good pace of play.
“If you have a lot of players on the team you can substitute so we can get more kids into the game,” said Kristen O’Shields of Carolina Springs. “It also means less pressure on the kids,” she added.
There is a cost involved for the players. They receive their uniform and hat and many of the teams have pre-season practice and instruction as part of their individual programs.
Parents are encouraged to be supportive, but not caddy. The kids are on their own. They make their own decisions on the course without help from parents.
“Not everyone of the players is a good golfer, but that isn’t the point. We want them to have fun and if they stick with it they can have a game they can play long after they can’t play soccer or baseball anymore,” said Evatt.
The program looks like it is gaining more clubs and young golfers each year.
“We offered it to our members and the team was full about a half hour after we posted it,” said Clint Jarrett of the Greenville Country Club. “Next year we are going to add another team because of the interest,” he said.
The goal is for kids to have fun, but there is also a competitive side to the program. Teams keep score and the league has standings.
At the end of the season an All-Star team is picked. The 10 players chosen then form a team to play other PGA Junior Regions with the hope of making the finals at Arizona’s Gray Hawk Golf Club in November.
The playoffs begin early this month and each team in the league will be represented on the All-Star team.
“I love to teach and this has not only been great for our kids, but I also have enjoyed it,” said Dick Paschal of Oconee Country Club. “I think being involved in this program has been one of the most rewarding things that I have been able to do as a PGA Professional,” he concluded.
Kristen O’Shields Interview