Welcome to the debut of our "AJGA Trailblazers: Staff Spotlight Series." In this series, we explore the remarkable career journeys of individuals who began their professional lives within the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and have since made their mark in the world.
This series is not only about the individuals themselves but also the dynamic network of current and former staff members who've been instrumental in AJGA's evolution.
In our first feature, we turn the spotlight on Jenae Jenkins, who joined AJGA's ranks back in 2003. Despite starting from diverse beginnings, Jenae has ascended to the position of Executive Director for the First Tee - Metro Atlanta, where he continues to impact the world of junior golf.
Jenkins started his professional career within the golf industry interning at the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour in 2002. The following year he was hired at the AJGA where he worked numerous roles in the three years of his time with the organization. He began as the Manager of Player Services, then moved to the operations department as a Tournament Director, and then finished as the Manager of Member Services.
“Honestly, I learned so much from my time at the AJGA from all the different experiences,” Jenkins said. “I think I worked everything, but communications. But seriously, the time that I had in operations set a great foundation for me and my understanding of golf, the business of golf, and junior golf. The AJGA gave me all the tools I’ve needed to get to where I am today.”
Jenkins got out of the golf industry to start his own business after his time at the AJGA. However, after that he was still working a job and felt as if something was missing as he didn’t feel fulfilled in his role he remembered back to the culture and environment of the AJGA. He found his footing with the First Tee- Metro Atlanta as the Director of Programming.
“The AJGA’s culture is like no other and I always yearned for that as it provided the best work environment,” Jenkins said. “I loved working with kids, golf, and developing the next generation. I actually would have never found The First Tee if not for the AJGA and the knowledge I had about them but getting back in the golf space was wanted I wanted.”
Jenkins worked as the Director of Programming for 10 years and calls it some of the most rewarding and satisfying things he’s ever done. He always tries to hear from the parents and the participants from the First Tee programs to see how things can improve. He attests to that mindset from AJGA Executive Director, Stephen Hamblin as it’s helped him in his role over the years.
“Something Stephen would always say is don’t hide behind policy, be creative and so I’ve taken that and always been open to other suggestions and ideas,” Jenkins said. “I’ve never just said oh, that’s the way it is, so sorry we can’t do it. Because of that over the past 10 years, we’ve been able to do some pretty amazing things by listening to our participants which has led to having some creative programming.”
Jenkins has now been newly promoted to Executive Director for the First Tee- Metro Atlanta and has been focused on cultivating a culture that mirrors the AJGA. His focus is always on serving the kids whereas sponsors always will come second. He believes buying into that culture and focus can lead to a positive impact.
“I’ve worked with different people and different organizations but that [the AJGA] culture of all hands on deck, we’re going to work hard, have fun, and impact some kids, you cannot bear that,” Jenkins said. When everybody is bought into that, the things that you’re able to do are amazing. That’s something that I’ve taken with me in this new role is setting that kind of culture.”
Not only has Jenkins felt he’s grown from a professional standpoint from his time and experiences from the AJGA, but also from a personal perspective he’s been able to take away aspects to assist in a lifelong journey of learning about himself. By taking professional development classes and looking introspectively, he was able to build a foundation that helped in his personal development.
“I just asked myself what I wanted to be known for and how can I put that into everything I do,” Jenkins said. “I wanted it to show up in everything and not just work right but excel which all ran from a strong foundation given to me because of the AJGA and its importance to development. Knowing that your actions will speak more than your word will and carrying that with me to where I am today.”