2014 Junior Development Awards

It's All About The Kids

Golf Digest honors five youth programs

February 2015
Junior Development Awards

Darius Rucker at last year's Rock Fore! Dough concert.

For the 30th consecutive year, Golf Digest's Junior Development Awards recognize programs that bring kids into the game. More than ever, the current winners, an individual, club, corporation, association and municipality, are committed to improving the quality and content of junior golf.
Mt. Pleasant Hootie and Blowfish Chapter participants

INDIVIDUAL WINNER

Darius Rucker

Darius Rucker, lead singer for Hootie and the Blowfish. Although not touring as a band now, Hootie and the Blowfish come together several times a year for charitable causes. Over the past 21 years, their performances at the Monday After the Masters Pro-Am in Myrtle Beach, S.C., have raised more than $1.4 million for the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation. These funds underwrite the Hootie and the Blowfish Chapters in two important ways. They provide salaries for interns who, then administer junior activities at 19 local chapters. Some 1,400 juniors take part in this program each summer. Rucker's generosity extends to Georgia where he performed at last year's 10th anniversary of Rock Fore! Dough (pictured above), a concert benefitting The First Tee of Augusta, Ga., an event he has starred at seven times.
Rickie Fowler at 2014 Polo Junior Golf Classic

ASSOCIATION WINNER

The American Junior Golf Association

Association winner: The American Junior Golf Association, an advocate for juniors since 1978, was initially created so the country's best players could compete against each other and by doing so qualify for college scholarships. However, over time, that original base has grown. Each community holding a scheduled event raises money that funds programs for kids of varying skill levels. Talented kids lacking financial resources are able to play in national events with aid from the AJGA's ACE Grants. Through the Leadership Links program, started in 2009, AJGA members have raised more than $1 million for charity with some of those dollars going to ACE Grant recipients. In an effort to stem endless rounds, the AJGA initiated a pace of play policy. In 2013 and again in 2014, rounds at association events averaged four hours and 17 minutes. Penalties are issued to those failing to play within the prescribed time frame.
Half Moon Bay Golf Links, Calif.

CLUB WINNER

Half Moon Bay Golf Links, Calif.

The $5 green fee for kids (restrictions apply) encourages them to play at this Ritz-Carlton property, 30 miles south of San Francisco. Lucy Li, who made news as the youngest player in the U.S. Women's Open, regularly takes advantage of this cut-rate cost (normally $195). Twenty girls from the local Boys and Girls Club completed an eight-week clinic last fall. They were given golf instruction, clubs, balls and clothes. Staff professionals donated their lesson money to pay for this program. GM Bill Troyanoski noticed increased self-esteem in the girls as they spent more time at the course and concluded, "Golf is a good way to learn about life."
Leo Cheng and Adam Scott

MUNICIPALITY WINNER

Augusta, Georgia

Municipality winner: Augusta, Ga., is a community where youngsters are encouraged to play golf. The First Tee of Augusta, founded in 2001, offers eight-week sessions that cost $60 with some 1,000 youngsters participating this past year. The chapter also partners with six elementary schools. This program is free for the 300 kids who are bused to the facility once a week for eight weeks for golf instruction, life skills training and membership in the club. Another 17,000 local youths get golf lessons as part of their PE curriculum. Jones Creek Golf Club, a local public course, hosted an AJGA event this summer. Ray Mundy, the club's owner, donated his course and food for the players and volunteers during the tournament. Finals of the Drive, Pitch and Putt junior competition were held at Augusta National last April. Kids from across the country competed in various skills and age groups on the same ground as the world's best players. They will do so again this April at the 2015 Masters.
2014 Life Skills & Golf Skills Team Challenge

CORPORATE WINNER

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson, a Legacy Partner of The First Tee, is in the second year of a three-year chapter matching grant program. The national office matches $1 for every $2 raised by local chapters. Revenue has grown from $51.04 million in 2011 to $72.8 million in 2013. During that time, the number of donors increased from 20,323 to 70,414. Additional funds make more extensive programs possible. At The First Tee of Metropolitan New York, the matching gifts grants have allowed young professionals to help local teenagers with college visits, SAT preparation and career exploration seminars. These activities are in addition to the golf instruction and life skills education they receive.
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