Ask the expert: Stephen Hamblin

Stephen Hamblin,

AJGA executive director

A 25-year employee of the AJGA, Hamblin is responsible for overturning the organization’s policy that prohibited push carts. In 2009, AJGA competitors are being encouraged to use push carts if the host club allows them.

Why did the AJGA decide to endorse the use of push carts?

In playing international matches, we started recognizing a trend. All the European players, boys and girls, used push carts. Our kids just carried their bags. In studying the issue, we found the American junior-golf culture felt like a push cart was uncool. The Europeans have gotten over the uncool part.

So you’re trying to make it cool?

We’re trying to be proactive. I’ve been getting some great letters from parents. The reaction has been very, very, very positive. . . . We think it’s less taxing, with less stress on their backs.

Is there a posture story here?

Yes. We started looking at the posture of the kids from Spain, Sweden, Germany and other countries, and their posture was just fantastic. We looked at the posture of some of our kids, and we thought maybe their bodies had not yet developed enough to handle the weight of a fully loaded golf bag. Really, there isn’t that much medical evidence available, but it is our responsibility to help our kids.

Let’s go back to the cool issue. How do you transform feelings about push carts?

I want to have enough push carts to mandate that all players have to use them in the practice round. Then we would survey the kids: “Did you feel like a dork?” We think we can convert a few of them.

Is there one push-cart story that stands out in your mind?

We had a young lady come to us (in June 2007) at Mission Hills (in Rancho Mirage, Calif.). She was participating in the tournament. She was crying. She told us she had a chronic back problem, and her parents and her doctor wouldn’t allow her to carry a golf bag. She had a college coach coming in to recruit her, and she needed that scholarship.

I thought about that, and it was pretty clear that our ultimate goal is to give these kids an opportunity, not keep them away from one. So we let her use a cart, and we changed the policy.

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