Golf for Kids Grows in Popularity Around Westchester

If you think kids want to spend every waking moment on a screen, you haven’t seen our golf courses lately.

Golf for youngsters is booming in Westchester, thanks in large part to the many organizations and golf facilities welcoming them to the game. From toddlers to college-team-bound teens, there’s a golf program for every kid in the county.

Metropolitan PGA Junior Golf

The Met PGA (metpgafoundation.org/junior) is your first stop for kids’ golf. The Elmsford-based organization represents the professionals who promote and teach the game at public and private golf courses, driving ranges, simulator lounges, and other facilities. They are dedicated to growing the game in many ways, chief among them giving kids fun, positive experiences in golf, an approach that has led some 2,500 Westchester kids to their programs.

Cameron Young, PGA Tour Rookie of the Year for 2021–22, says his participation in Met PGA events, beginning when he was in grade school, contributed greatly to his success. While not every kid is going to make it to the big show, getting started in golf at a young age lays the foundation for a lifetime enjoying the game.

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PGA Junior League
PGA Junior League. Courtesy of Met PGA.

“We really are everything for every kid,” says Dan Frankel, the Met PGA director of junior golf. The Met PGA provides a road map for youth golf that begins with PGA Jr League, aka Little League for Golf, where about 1,000 Westchester kids play. Frankel says, “The beauty of the program is that it caters to kids who are not quite at the level to compete in individual tournament play. They are up-and-coming, love the game, and want to learn more. Between the team atmosphere, the jerseys, and the scramble format, it teaches golf in a fun, exciting, and less pressure-filled way. They can’t help but fall in love with the game.”

Then come the three parts of the Met PGA Junior Tour, which begins with the Nine-hole Tour, a series of two or three events every week ideal for younger players ready to compete individually. It continues with the Players Tour, which stages 18-hole tournaments for more advanced players. There’s a Players Tour event somewhere in the metro area nearly every weekday.

The last stop on the road map is the Future Series, 36-hole events for kids grooming to play in college or pursue a career as a PGA professional. These events are nationally ranked by Junior Golf Scoreboard, which is used for recruiting research by colleges throughout the country. They also count for American Junior Golf Associations (AJGA) points at the national level.

Worried about the cost? While there are modest memberships and entry fees, the Met PGA Foundation makes sure that every kid can participate. “Thanks to intense fundraising and support from the golf community,” Frankel says, “we can provide full scholarships for the Junior Tour so that no young golfer is ever turned away because they can’t afford the game.”

The Met PGA also runs the local events for the national Drive, Chip & Putt competition, a partnership between the PGA, USGA, and Augusta National GC, the home of the Masters. The Met PGA runs six local qualifiers in the metro area and the sub-regional qualifiers at Bethpage in August. Two winners in each division there go to the regional finals. One player in each division then moves on to Augusta where they compete on national TV the Sunday before the Masters.

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MGA Youth Opportunities

The Metropolitan Golf Association and its foundation provide several opportunities for young people to learn and enjoy the game — and even get an introduction to career paths in golf.

One of the organization’s newest and fastest growing initiatives is Youth on Course (youthoncourse.org), a program to provide affordable golf access to juniors. With a Youth on Course membership, junior golfers ages 6 to 18 can play for $5 or less per round at participating courses. The six Westchester County courses are part of the program, as are about 30 more in the metro area. If your family travels, you’ll find Youth on Course opportunities across the country.

The First Tee (firstteemetny.org) gives golf and life lessons to youngsters in partnership with the MGA and the Met PGA. The program, founded in New York in 2001, integrates the game of golf with a life-skills curriculum to build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience, all important traits for youngsters on and off the course. At the Mosholu Golf Course near Yonkers, students play and learn on a nine-hole course, driving range, practice green, chipping green, clubhouse, and classroom/meeting space. Programs are also delivered at Game on Golf in White Plains.

MGA 2023 Junior Champion Ken Fernandes
MGA 2023 Junior Champion Ken Fernandes. Photo courtesy of MGA.

Youngsters ready to compete on higher levels can test their skills at several events conducted by the MGA Foundation (mgagolf.org/foundation/junior-competitions). Chief among them is the Met Junior Championship, the nation’s oldest junior tournament, founded in 1912. Among the numerous winners of the Met Junior who have gone on to make their marks on the pro tours is Cameron Young (winner in 2013). For young men not yet 16, the MGA/MetLife Boys Championship is held at some of the area’s most challenging layouts.

It’s not about playing the game, but GOLFWORKS (mgagolf.org/foundation/golfworks), the MGA Foundation’s cornerstone program, provides meaningful summer internships for high school students at clubs throughout the area where more than 300 students are employed as interns each summer. Interns learn from industry professionals while they work in the golf shop, in food and beverage service, on the grounds, or as part of the clubhouse operations.

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WMGA Juniors

The Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association continues to expand its programs to introduce girls and young women to the game (wmga.com/juniors). One of the group’s most exciting efforts is Girls to the Tee, where girls of all skills levels — including those who have never held a club before — get a fun introduction to the game led by local PGA instructors. The one-day event brought over 100 youngsters to Westchester Country Club last year. “It’s really wonderful for many girls who have never been on a golf course before,” says WMGA Executive Director Sarah Niemeier.

WMGA’s Girls to the Tee
WMGA’s Girls to the Tee. Courtesy of WMGA.

For girls with a yen to compete, the WMGA holds two junior-only tournaments, both of which include a nine-hole division for girls without a USGA handicap. Another popular event is the Family Championship, a Pinehurst event for Mother/Daughter, Father/Daughter, Sister/Sister, and Sister/Brother teams.

WMGA Junior Open
WMGA Junior Open. Courtesy of WMGA.

The WMGA offers one of golf’s finest grow-the-game initiatives in its Junior Membership Program, which offers a dues-free opportunity to girls who want to participate in the organization. In addition, the WMGA offers college scholarships to girls with financial need and a love for the game.

WMGA’s Family Championship
WMGA’s Family Championship. Courtesy of WMGA.

Clinics and Golf Camps

Group clinics and camps are a great way for kids (or anyone) to learn the game — and make a few new friends at the same time. If there’s a private club near you, don’t assume its kids’ camps are only for members — call the pro shop to check. In addition, here are some of the county’s top options:

Westchester County Courses 

Dunwoodie, Hudson Hills, Maple Moor, Mohansic, Saxon Woods, Sprain Lake

Each of the county courses provides junior golf camps that are popular and affordable, so it’s a good idea to book early.

Pleasantville CC

Charlie Woods Junior Golf Camp starts the first week of July. It’s a half-day camp Monday to Thursday and non-members are welcome.

Harrison Meadows CC

Kids camps and golf clinics are available to both residents and non-residents of the town.

Lake Isle CC

Kevin Chin Golf provides junior golf camps for various age groups of kids 7 to 15.

Rye GC

Weekly golf camps are run for members-only late June through August.

Game on Golf Center

Group clinics for kids are offered year-round by PGA instructors, and the driving range is available to practice, practice, practice.

Golf Lounge 18

TGA Premier Sports provides lessons and golf leagues for kids and parents on the simulators in The Westchester in White Plains.

Back Nine Indoor Golf

Junior clinics match children of similar ages and abilities in small groups to learn the fundamentals from experienced instructors.

LPGA USGA Girls Golf

Girls as young a five can join to participate in clinics, tournaments, and social events at sites including golf courses and driving ranges in the area.

Related: Flag Football Grows in Popularity Around Westchester

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