INDIVIDUAL WINNERDarius 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.
The American Junior Golf Association
ASSOCIATION WINNERAssociation 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 WINNERThe $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."
MUNICIPALITY WINNERMunicipality 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.
Johnson & Johnson
CORPORATE WINNERJohnson & 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.
John Elliott Jr., the director of golf instruction at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club in Ocala, Fla., demonstrates the differencebetween "a cool finish" and "a super-cool finish" to one of his students, Heather Proctor.
What age should my kid take up golf? When's the best time to take kids to the course? Sport psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella answers questions parents haveabout getting their youngsters started playing golf.