70,000 kids participated in PGA Junior league last year

Cookeville – Team North Carolina had a choice to make on ESPN during the final hole of the 2022 PGA Junior League 13-U World Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Arizona. After driving the green, Miles Russell left a long, downhill putt. Russell’s partner, John Santospago, left an uphill chip just short of the hole. The partners took Santospago’s ball and chipped it close, leaving a short, uphill putt to seal a victory for North Carolina.

Surely, they would be on Sportscenter that night.

The win was the culmination of a season that consisted of Section Qualifiers, Section Championships, three local All-Star Play Days and Regional Championships. But, it all starts on the local level, and Rick Timm, PGA Proffessional at White Plains Golf Course, is giving kids the Upper Cumberland a chance to begin that same journey with the inception of PGA Junior League in Cookeville.

Who knows where it may lead?

“I started in 2014 in Colorado,” said Timm of his first experience running and coaching a PGA Junior League program. “When a State has enough all-star teams, they have their own State Championship. In 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 my team won consecutive Colorado State Championships.”

Each league consists of two age groups, 17 and under and 13 and under. Following the regular season an all-star team will be chosen. Those teams then compete in regional tournaments.

Think Little League World Series. 

“The winner of each Regional goes on to play all the other teams in the country for the National Championship, filmed live on ESPN,” said Timm. “It’s the Little League World Series – just Golf.”

The mission is simple, “PGA Jr. League is bringing friends, families and communities together through golf.”

“PGA Jr. League is the flagship youth pillar program of the PGA of Americas foundation, PGA Reach,” according to pgareach.com. “We envision a world in which PGA Jr. League is accessible to every child, everywhere, regardless of background or circumstance.”

Allowing children to get outside, learn teamwork in a game that will last a lifetime and compete are the things that make the PGA Junior league great, according to Timm.

“This program enables kids to play together at different ability levels, in a team atmosphere and through a two-person scramble format,” said Timm. “Each player always has a partner (teammate) to enhance the teamwork concept and helps keep the fun level high and the pressure level low.”  

All players work toward the postseason.

“All the other league participants can root for their teammates when they play for the State Championship,” said Timm. “The different ages play from two sets of tee markers and allows the younger players the advantage of playing closer to the hole.”

Golf is a game for the whole family, but the competitive aspect of junior golf is often overlooked. PGA Junior League will bring both the camaraderie of youth sports and the competition of high level junior golf together for the first time in Cookeville.

“This program brings the families together to participate as spectators and allows the players to make their own decisions as teammates,” said Timm. “The older, more experienced kids get to mentor the younger kids which is something unique in team sports.” 

Why is growing the game important to the future of Golf?

“This is the easiest question to answer and only really applies to this sport. It is a lifetime sport,” said Timm.

70,000 kids participated in PGA Junior league last year. Work ethic, teamwork, competition and honesty are just a few of the life skills learned on the golf course.

“There is a reason that this program is the fastest growing youth sports program over the past decade,” said Timm.

To sign up visit www.pgajrleague.com, type in the ZIP code and sign-up at White Plains GC. For more information about PGA Jr. League and the National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championship, visit pgajrleague.com.

Photos provided.

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