You’ve heard of Little League Baseball, but did you know that golf has its own version?
This year is the fourth season of PGA Junior League Golf. The program teaches boys and girls under 13 who’ve never played golf how to play the sport. And while they learn the fundamentals of the game, there’s a key difference to the experience that makes the program unique.
Normally, golf is played one-on-one. But PGA Junior League Golf competitions are played between teams. Kids even wear uniforms with jersey numbers and their team’s name. Each team is made up of 10 players. A match is nine holes instead of 18, and it’s played in a two-on-two format. Coaches can sub out players every three holes so everyone on the team gets a chance to play.
Just like Little League Baseball has its own World Series, PGA Junior League Golf has a championship tournament. This year, it will be played at the TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Georgia. It’s happening this weekend, and I will be there to cover it.
The tournament begins Friday and ends Sunday. Eight teams from across the country will compete for the national title. A squad from Hamilton Mill Golf Club in Atlanta won last year – and they’re back this year.
The other teams in the tournament are:
Team California (from San Ramon – San Ramon Golf Club)
Team Connecticut (Hartford – Golf Center at Lyman Orchards, Goodwin Park, Suzy Whaley Junior Golf Academy, TPC River Highlands)
Team Indiana (Avon – Prestwick Country Club)
Team Iowa (Spencer – Brooks Golf Club, Emerald Hills Golf Club, Spencer Golf & Country Club, The Ridge Golf Club)
Team New Jersey (Trenton – First Tee of Greater Trenton, Forsgate Country Club, Royce Brook Golf Club, Trenton Country Club)
Team Tennessee (Knoxville – Fairways & Greens Golf Center, Holston Hills Country Club, Sevierville Golf Club)
Team Texas (Houston – The Clubs of Kingwood)
The official ambassador for the tournament is Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 golfer in the world. Davis Love III, the 2012 U.S. States Ryder Cup team captain, is an Honorary National Captain for PGA Junior League Golf.
Junior League Golf gets bigger by the year. In 2013, 9,000 kids representing 740 teams competed nationwide. This year, it’s up to 18,800 players on 1,500 teams.
The finals keep getting bigger, too. The championship has gone from four teams in 2011, to five in 2012, to six last year, and now up to eight in 2014. Teams had to win a regional tournament to advance to this round.
For more information, go to PGAJrLeagueGolf.com – and following my reports from the tournament this weekend here on SIKids.com. Here's my roundup of the first day at Sugarloaf, a recap of the second day's action, a wrap up of the semifinal round, and a rundown of Team California clinching the 2014 championship!
Photo courtesy PGA of America