Fun in the Sun

For kids in the PGA Jr. League, high-fives, colorful team jerseys and plenty of smiles rule the day. And, for a lucky few, there’s even the shot at a National Championship

Fun in the Sun

Exciting social events organized by the tournament sponsor for golfers and their families to get to know one another away from the course? Check. Designated onsite hospitality areas for players to relax, enjoy complimentary food and beverage, and play games? Check. Special lounges for their families to hang out, meet others and have free food and refreshments? Check. All of these might sound like the trappings of a big-time pro golf tournament. Instead, it was the backdrop to the just-completed 8th PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental, where the 12 best teams in the country competed at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Launched in 2012, the PGA Jr. League is a nationwide, co-ed, team-based initiative for junior golfers. Teams in hundreds of local leagues play 9-hole scramble matches—a trio of three-hole competitions—against one another. And, the players aren’t going it alone. LPGA and PGA club professionals serve as coaches and captains for each squad while making sure the emphasis is on having fun in a relaxed, social atmosphere.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ – OCTOBER 11: Anna Swan of Team Ohio and Natalie Kostalnick of Team Ohio play ping pong during a practice round for the 2019 PGA Jr. League Championship presented by National Car Rental held at the Grayhawk Golf Club on October 11, 2019 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America)

At its core, the PGA Jr. League is a developmental program for kids of all abilities. However, with National’s assistance, the PGA Jr. League has also increased postseason opportunities for golfers looking for a more competitive environment. “We’ve been able to enhance the player and family experience at all levels of the competition, including our National Championship that is now televised annually,” says Steve Tanner, Director, League Golf at the PGA of America. 

Postseason participants are part of 10-player “All-Star” teams. In 2019, teams from 800 leagues nationwide took their best shot in 41 Section championships. Qualifiers moved on to a dozen Regional events, with the 12 winners advancing to the Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club. A two-hour highlight show will air on Sunday, November 3, at 3pm ET on ESPN2. You might even catch 13-year-old Will Hartman on the broadcast. Hartman, a member of Team North Carolina, was thrilled with the Championship experience: “National Car Rental provides a lot of stuff for us kids, and we’re very grateful to be able to come and have fun here.” 

As a primary stakeholder, National Car Rental’s support has been pivotal to the League’s expansion. “During our Rec seasons, they’ve enabled us to significantly improve the team kit every player receives, including high-quality home and away jerseys where kids can customize their number and coaches can customize the team name,” says Tanner. National also conducts fun events for PGA Jr. League teams each year at the PGA Championship, Senior PGA Championship and KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Pro golfer Keegan Bradley, a National Car Rental brand ambassador, has helped create unique player experiences by conducting free clinics, taking part in Q&A’s and even playing with select golfers in the program. In addition, National has created a series of videos profiling the stories of Jr. League players and coaches to raise visibility and highlight key benefits of participation in the League. 

League-wide participation has steadily increased each year. In 2016, the program had 36,000 boys and girls (on 2,700 regular-season teams). This year, more than 60,000 players (4,500 teams) were involved, a 40-percent jump. The rapid rise coincides with National Car Rental signing on as presenting sponsor and official partner in 2016.  “We believe that the values we associate with our brand – such as honesty, integrity, respect and teamwork – are the same lessons golf teaches these kids, which they can draw from throughout their lives,” says Frank Thurman, vice president of marketing at National Car Rental. “Our partnership with the PGA Jr. League is an investment not only in the future of the game and making it accessible to more kids, but also as an investment in these kids as future business leaders.”

 

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