From pure beginners to accomplished competitors, junior golfers in Westchester have never had more and better opportunities to learn and play the game.
Serious young golfers get a taste of real competition in more than 100 junior events conducted under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Section PGA Foundation. The Junior Tour is open to boys and girls ages 7–18 who are approved for play by a PGA professional. Events include nine-hole tournaments for younger beginning players, 18-hole tournaments for more advanced players in two age divisions, and the Future Series, two-day tournaments for boys with handicaps of 10 or below and for girls with an index of 15 of lower. For more, visit www.metpgafoundation.org/junior/about.
No one has more fun than the kids playing in the PGA Jr. League, a series of regular-season matches for boys and girls 13 and under where teams play four nine-hole matches in a popular two-person scramble format. The competition is intense, but the pressure is off since the team concept creates a nurturing environment for learning the game. Coaches can also substitute players every three holes so that all of the golfers on each team can participate. To sign up for a team in your area, visit www.metpgajuniorgolf.com/jrleague.
Young newbies can get an all-around introduction to the game through TGA, which offers clinics, camps, leagues, and programs in cooperation with local courses and through many town recreation departments and schools when public health conditions permit. TGA specializes in golf learning experiences for kids 10 and younger.
“We focus on the fundamentals of the grip, aim, stance, and posture, and start with chipping and putting, then half swings progressing to full swings,” says Kevin Rooney, who runs TGA of Northern Westchester. “We also cover the things you need to know to play the game, like course management, keeping score, and golf etiquette.”
Kids not only get group and individual instruction in gyms, ranges, and playgrounds but also play on local courses, where a true love for the game can be born. TGA of Northern Westchester plays at Hudson Hills and Pehquenakonck CC, while the Southern Westchester group tees it up at Saxon Woods and Dunwoodie.
Parents don’t have to worry about spending money on golf clubs, either. TGA provides everything the new golfer needs to get started. The price is right, too. Clinics and weekly programs basically cost just $20 per hour, and golf camps — both full- and half-day prices — start at $200 for five days, although they vary according to location. Details can be found at www.playtga.com/junior-golf-programs.
Rooney points out the TGA program is designed to make golf enjoyable. “Our goal is to give everyone an easy start in the game, so they can play for fun with their siblings and parents.”
Young golfers at the other end of the spectrum — accomplished players who aspire to play college golf at the highest levels — will find the intense coaching, fitness, and guidance they need at the Golf Performance Center. In addition to its year-round golf training academy and accredited education through its Ethan Allen Prep school, GPC offers four- and eight-week summer programs for golfers age 10 and older, with room and board available at the academy’s campus in Ridgefield.
“The GPC Summer Program provides student athletes with the tools to grow athletically, culturally, and as lifelong learners,” says GPC’s founder, Roger Knick. “The program combines the best practices for development, golf and physical coaching, tournament preparation, tournament play, and high-level academic experience.” GPC alumni include several NCAA All-Americans and former student athletes who have gone on to win on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Summer programs include daily physical performance coaching, extended golf practice time, playing privileges at nearby Salem Golf Club, tournament planning, custom club-fitting, and premium membership in
JuniorGolfHub.com, GPC’s unique online gateway to navigating the road to college golf.
Free golf clinics for girls ages 6 to 18 of all skill levels will resume this year under the sponsorship of the Women’s Metropolitan Golf Association Foundation. At press time, dates and details were still works in progress, but Westchester Country Club has hosted previous events, which attract hundreds of girls (and a few of their kid brothers!), many of whom are just holding a golf club in their hands for the first time. Top local PGA professionals donate their time to provide the instruction. Participation is free, and the WMGA Foundation provides clubs to use during the clinics. Registration is required and will open in May. To learn more, go to www.wmga.com/girls-to-the-tee.
Twenty bucks is all it takes to cash in on the best value in junior golf, the Youth on Course program operated by the Metropolitan Golf Association Foundation. The membership fee gives juniors access to dozens of golf courses in the New York area, and thousands around the country, where they can play for just $5. All six of the Westchester County golf courses participate, as well as nearby Pelham Bay/Split Rock, Van Cortlandt Park, and Rockland Lake GC, across the bridge in Congers. For membership details, go to www.mgagolf.org/youthoncourse.