Five years ago, PGA Jr. League was founded by the PGA of America in an effort to engage youth players to play in a team-formatted golf environment.
Since its initiation, the New Jersey Golf Foundation, with one of its missions to expand youth golf, has made efforts to get Section PGA Professionals and junior golfers involved.
Team New Jersey, which hails from Royce Brook Golf Club in Hillsborough, NJ, made its third consecutive trip and fourth trip in the last five years
to nationals November 18-21 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, after winning the Mid-Atlantic region.
Their captain, Anthony Latham, the 2013 NJPGA Youth Player Development Award winner, believes PGA Jr. League is the best way for kids to get involved in golf through a team environment.
“This concept is one that they’re familiar and comfortable with, plus the scramble format leads to lots of low scores,” Latham, the Director of Instruction at Royce Brook Golf Academy said. “They improve as individuals without the pressure of playing alone but with a partner and as member of a team.”
Latham’s team finished fourth in the PGA Jr. League National Championship after falling to Team Ohio, 6.5-5.5 in a third-place match. They defeated Team Jersey-Philly and The First Tee of Essex in the New Jersey Sub-Regional.
“The competition has increased in New Jersey and nationwide,” Latham said.
In January 2017, it was announced that 36,000 junior golfers participated in PGA Jr. League in 2016, a record high. Each PGA Jr. League team consists of players 13-and-under.
Last year, there were 70 PGA Jr. League teams in New Jersey, with 56 different PGA Professionals serving as captains at 46 different facilities.
“Because of the increased numbers, I have been running my own league the past four years,” Latham said. “Every year there seems to be more and more clubs offering PGA Jr. League.”
The format of PGA Jr. League is a two-person scramble format that encourages a team environment. Local PGA Professional captains of each team can substitute players every three holes, giving everyone a chance to get involved.
“Most golf is stressful, a lot of the junior tours are competitive,” Chris Hunt said. “But [PGA Jr. League] has numbers on the back of their jerseys, they come out as a team, play relaxed golf, and it’s a way to introduce and get kids on the golf course.”
There are four-to-six games per season, and four, nine-hole matches each game. Seasons usually run from April 1 - July 31, with postseason regionals and the nationals in the later parts of the year.
“Golf is important for kids to learn so that the game itself will continue to grow,” Latham said. “The many wonderful things and opportunities it provides to one’s life such as travel, friendships, a college education, or perhaps even a career is what makes this game to kids so important.”
2016 PGA Jr. League Teams in New Jersey
Royce Brook Golf Club
Anchor Golf Center
Black Oak Golf Club
Brooklake Country Club
Hawk Pointe Golf Club
Mercer County Golf Academy
Galloping Hill Golf Course
Plainfield West 9 Golf Course
North Jersey Country Club
Newton Country Club
Cedar Hill Country Club
Montclair Golf Club
Metuchen Golf and Country Club
Flanders Valley Golf Club
Raritan Valley Country Club
River Vale Country Club
The Bedens Brook Club
Echo Lake Country Club
Preakness Hills Country Club
Shackamaxon Country Club
Hopewell Valley Golf & Country Club
Liberty National Golf Club
Cherry Valley Country Club
Ramsey Golf & Country Club
Forsgate Country Club
New Jersey National
Fiddler's Elbow Country Club
Stonybrook Golf Club
Canoe Brook Country Club
Greenacres Country Club
Fairmount Country Club
Echo Lake Country Club
Somerset Hills Country Club
Trump National Golf Club Colts Neck
Mendham Golf and Tennis Club
Trump National Golf Club
Jumping Brook Country Club
Spring Brook Country Club
Plainfield Country Club
TPC Jasna Polana/The Ridge at Back Brook
Morris County Golf Club
White Beeches Golf & Country Club
Forest Hill Field Club
Springdale Golf Club