By Alex Wood, AJGA Communications
Over the course of 2016, the American Junior Golf Association will host 116 events. This season’s schedule includes 14 Golf Performance Center Preview Series events, 15 Junior All-Star Series events and 17 Open events. Each event type brings a new level of competition and caters towards juniors in each stage of their AJGA career.
For members who haven’t been accepted into a tournament or who haven’t yet competed in an AJGA event, the Golf Performance Center Preview Series is a perfect first step. Not only do these events allow juniors to start earning Performance Based Entry (PBE) status before the deadline for summer Open and Junior All-Star Series events, but they also provide new members with a great glimpse into what AJGA tournaments are like. Golf Performance Center, a golf academy located in Ridgefield, Connecticut, sponsors the Golf Performance Center Preview Series from 2016-20. There, PGA- and TPI-certified instructors focus on training juniors in the five key areas of success: desire, coaching, physical performance and nutrition, mental game and equipment. Medalists from Golf Performance Center Preview Series events have the opportunity to earn anywhere from four to eight Performance Stars. Because most of these events occur in the spring, new players can begin to build their status for summer events.
The next stepping stone for members aged 12-15 is to compete in a Junior All-Star Series event. These events are available for juniors to build their skills and increase their Performance Based Entry status for Open events. Unlike events within the Golf Performance Center Preview Series, juniors are accepted into the field based on their PBE status. Champions can earn 12 Performance Stars, and the top 50% can earn anywhere from one to eight Performance Stars. Members can compete in a maximum of four Junior All-Star events per season, excluding Invitational events.
The bulk of the AJGA season consists of Open events. These tournaments are for members ages 12-19 and like Junior All-Star Series events are filled based on PBE status. Several Open events feature high-profile tournament sponsors, including Coca-Cola at this week’s Coca-Cola Junior Championship at Boyne Highlands. Playing in an Open event means playing with some of the best juniors in the AJGA and is a big milestone in a junior’s AJGA career.
Though not all juniors follow the progression of Preview, Junior All-Star, Open to a tee, some, like Sarah Shipley of Hastings, Michigan, believe there’s a lot to gain from the process.
“Previews introduce you to the level you’ll be playing at, and you’re all at the same stage,” Shipley recalled “Junior All-Stars are a little more competitive because you know what you want and what you’re playing for. Opens are a lot more competitive, especially with the players who have been playing in more tournaments because they know what’s on the line. But overall [the level of competition] really helped me grow as a player and as a person too.”
Shipley is now a University of Kentucky commit and is playing in the Coca-Cola Junior Championship at Boyne Highlands this week as a defending champion.