It’s a common conversation topic among golfers: How can we keep kids interested in the game? Innovative equipment? Big-name celebrities?
Los Angeles County says it’s simple – keep golf cheap.
For the entire month of July, junior golfers can play at any county golf course for $1. (There are 17 county golf facilities.)
The rules require the junior to bring someone along. Any golfer age 18 and younger can play for a buck after 12 p.m. when accompanied by an adult, senior, twilight or super-twilight fee.
Also, each course will organize a “Special Skills Day,” with activities such as free lessons, clinics and skills contests.
When he announced the program, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe said he hoped golf will act as a crime deterrent and an opportunity for kids to learn new physical, social and mental skills.
And it’s working, said Mike McMonegal, LA County Junior Golf Program Co-director. The $1 program has been in place for more than a decade, and each year it brings 2,500 young players to the game.
McMonegal organizes tournaments and free lessons throughout the year for the kids who get hooked on golf. This week, 300 junior players showed up for a tournament.
“That kind of turnout is unheard of in golf,” he said. “This program shows that L.A. County is where golfers of all ages can come and play. These aren’t private country clubs. These courses are for everyone.”
The organizers of the promotion aren’t shy about the fact that they want to create a larger golf following again. In 1992, nearly 2 million golfers frequented the L.A. courses. That number has dropped to about 1.5 million, McMonegal said.
Programs like the $1 initiative are an investment in future golfers.
“In the 70s, people worked at promoting golf, and the game grew” McMonegal said. “Now, we’ve seen a decrease and it’s back to the old-school way where we have to get back out and promote. We have to bring the juniors to the golf courses so they realize this is something they want to pick up and play for life.”
Around the U.S., other programs are reaching the same conclusion. Billy Casper Golf, which operates more than 125 golf courses nationwide, has launched a “Kids Play Free” program at all its courses.
“We want kids to know golf is a lifelong sport,” McMonegal said. “All the other sports they can play as a youth, but when you become an adult, golf is still there.”
– CJ Lotz
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MASTERFUL SHOWING: Sunny southern California played host to 491 junior golfers for last week’s 4th Annual San Diego Junior Masters Championship. Organized by the Future Champions Golf Tour and sponsored by Callaway Golf, the growing summer event showcased many of the area’s top young players in addition to welcoming other national and international standouts.
The feature divisions were the Boys 15-18 and the Girls 15-18. Daniel Chian, No. 64 in Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings and a native of nearby Covina, shot a final round 4-under 68 to best the field of 105 boys. On the girls side, 83rd-ranked Dottie Ardina came all the way from the Philippines to take down the title with an even-par total of 144.
Other San Diego Junior Masters highlights include three holes-in-one (Nikita Arjun, Justin Northbrook and Ahmed Ali) as well as multiple single round and 36-hole records (Tian Lang Guan, Puwit Anupansuebsai and Kate Villegas). The tournament also featured a few of the San Diego’s best public courses: Carlton Oaks, Sycuan Resort and Colina Park. More information on the event’s players and courses can be found here.
– Alexander Kayfetz-Gaum
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ALEX STEALS TEAMMATES’ SPOTLIGHT: After opening with rounds of 4-under 68, high school teammates Christian Cichan and Davis Bateman found themselves tied for first in the AJGA Golf Pride Junior Classic in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Bateman and Cichan, who both attend the Providence Day School in Charlotte, N.C., also shared the lead with Theo Humphrey of Greenwich, Connecticut.
But what looked like a potential show-down between teammates turned into a runaway victory for Anthony Alex, who overcame a four-shot first-round deficit to win by 5.
Alex, a 16-year-old from Wayne, N.J., cruised up the leaderboard with a bogey-free second-round 66, while Bateman and Cichan fell off, shooting rounds of 77 and 75, respectively. Alex made four of his six second-round birdies on the par 5’s at the Forest Creek Golf Club, and found himself just one shot behind Humphrey, who followed his opening round 68 with a 69.
On the third day, Bateman and Cichan duplicated their second-round scores, as Bateman finished tied for 26th (68-77-77) and Cichan shared 10th (68-75-75). But the tournament and the third round belonged to Alex, who shot a 1-under par 71 on his way to his first AJGA victory.
Taylor Zoller (71-73-70), who is currently ranked 63rd in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Golf Rankings, held second place alone, while Humphrey (68-69-77) finished third.
– Matt Bernstein
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SHORT SHOTS: Gavin Hall, No. 6 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings, will miss this month’s U.S. Junior Amateur with a lingering wrist problem. Read Ryan Lavner’s complete story by clicking here. . . . Incoming LSU freshman Curtis Thompson finished second, while incoming Stanford freshman Patrick Rodgers took third at the Players Amateur in South Carolina. Cody Proveaux, No. 4 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings, finished T-18. . . . Austin Root, 17, won his third victory on the Mid-Ohio Valley Junior Golf Association tour at the Golf Club of West Virginia with a 1-over 71, July 6.