By Roseanna Smith
Manager of Corporate Communications
Justin Silverstein graduated from Torrey Pines High School in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in 2004. The American Junior Golf Association alum is currently a member of the men’s golf team at the University of Arizona.
His dad Jeff Silverstein still attends at least one AJGA event each year – the one he created, co-sponsors and hosts.
As chairman of the I.R.I. Golf Group, Jeff Silverstein oversees the annual Srixon/I.R.I. Mixed Team Championship hosted by Jim Furyk at Arizona National Golf Club, just one of the many properties owned and managed by Silverstein’s organization.
Although many parents remain involved with the AJGA after their children have left for college, Silverstein kicks it up a notch with his strong sponsorship. Not only does I.R.I. donate the Arizona National course for the special format event, but Silverstein does it all — from donating meals to helping plan details. He created the idea to give out Mother’s Day roses, as the tournament is held annually over the holiday weekend.
The I.R.I. Golf Group has sponsored many AJGA events over the years, but Silverstein believes of all his experiences, the Mixed Team weekend is his favorite.
“My feeling was after having witnessed and gone through it with my own child – golf is a game and it’s meant to be fun,” Silverstein said. “I loved sponsoring the other AJGA events, but the letters I got from parents regarding the Mixed Team events were one after another, ‘I forgot my kids were supposed to have fun’ instead of ‘I hope Billy has a top-10 finish so he can be exempt and the coach can see him play.’ ”
In its fourth year, the Mixed Team event offers a unique 54-hole competition which pairs a boy and girl together as a team to compete in Modified Scotch, Foursome and Four-Ball formats. Although entrants to the event are given priority using the AJGA’s Performance Based Entry, the tournament does not affect status. The event’s main priority is for juniors to have fun.
Activities during the tournament are focused in kind; for example, juniors and AJGA staff take part of a day to decorate themed golf carts which they are uniquely allowed to use during the event. Awards are given out for such things as Best Cart Décor and Best Dressed.
In 2006, Kylie Fuller and Rickie Fowler won “Best Dressed” for their matching flame-themed outfits. Both had flames on their sleeves and hats and were accessorized with flame belt buckles. Fuller even had flame-painted fingernails.
AJGA Tournament Director Tommy Tangtiphaiboontana said the event is one of the most highly anticipated among the juniors.
“You can see kids just being kids. They bring in their own decorations — last year it was surfboards, pool toys — the kids go all out,” Tangtiphaiboontana stated. “It’s probably the most talked-about event as far as kids spreading the word. They talk all year about what they’ll do for the next year.”
But the enjoyment of the juniors is not the event’s only strength. The field is chock full of the best and brightest in junior golf. For example, last year’s winners were Scottsdale, Ariz., natives and Rolex Junior Players of the Year Esther Choe and Philip Francis. Choe won the Rolex Girls Junior Championship, the PING Phoenix Junior and The PING Invitational. Francis won the Rolex Tournament of Champions, the Thunderbird International Junior, the ReBath Heather Farr Classic and the U.S. Junior Amateur.
Jamie Lovemark, now a player on the men’s golf team at USC and the top-ranked college player in the nation, finished third last year with his partner Sydnee Michaels, who is currently playing at UCLA.
Still, Silverstein is most proud of the fact that the best in junior golf can also just be a great bunch of kids.
Jeff Silverstein poses with the 2006 champions Esther Choe and Philip Francis.
“I think it’s easy to run a top tournament and get the kids there," stated Silverstein. "But to see them really let their hair down is special.”
Because of Silverstein and the I.R.I. Golf Group, the AJGA is able to provide another terrific event which is fun, flavorful and still aids uniquely in the Association’s mission to help juniors grow and develop while seeking college golf scholarships in a competitive environment.
“The AJGA is grateful to Jeff Silverstein for his philanthropic efforts in sponsoring and hosting over 10 I.R.I. Golf Group events since 2003,” Jason Etzen, executive vice president of corporate partnerships, said. “It is because of supporters such as Jeff that the AJGA is able to conduct top-notch tournaments.”
For additional sponsorship opportunities or for more information about helping the AJGA, please contact Jason Etzen at toll free at 877-373-2542 ext. 1746 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.