Tucked in the southwest corner of Kansas lies a town of just under 30,000 people. Founded in 1883, Garden City, Kansas might not be a city on the national radar, but the residents of the town are working to change that. Golf has been a major aid in this effort, with the city hosting several high-profile LPGA Symetra Tour events and, for the past four years, the AJGA Kansas Junior at Buffalo Dunes.
This year’s field in Garden City totaled 132, an increase from the previous year’s total of 120. As the popularity of the event increases, so too does the event’s impact on the city. Charles Allen, a Garden City resident of seven years and president of the Friends of Buffalo Dunes, described the impact of having an annual AJGA event in Garden City as “an incredible economic boost.” Between hotels, meals and attractions, revenue generated by the influx of visitors for the event has wonderful impacts on the city as a whole. The AJGA is also providing Garden City with some of the nation’s best golfers, both at the organization’s tournament and as alumni in other tournaments that visit the city - most recently at the Garden City Charity Classic. The Symetra Tour event’s 2016 winner, Vicky Hurst, was a 2008 AJGA alum and won seven events during her AJGA career, including the 2007 Polo Golf Junior Classic.
As for Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, the impact of the AJGA Kansas Junior is even greater. A publicly-owned course, Buffalo Dunes has been an integral part of Garden City since 1976. Because the course has a history of attracting such high-profile events, ensuring that the course is in its best shape is of the utmost priority. A lot of this falls on Head Golf Professional Cole Wasinger. Wasinger has been with the course for six years and during his time has been a key figure in the club’s relationship with the AJGA. During the tournament, Wasinger can be found out on the course, talking with juniors and helping out wherever possible. His efforts have been so beneficial to the AJGA that Wasinger was recently named the 2015 AJGA Golf Professional of the Year. However, keeping Buffalo Dunes in top shape is too great a task for Wasinger to do alone.
In an effort to aid in the course’s fundraising efforts, the Friends of Buffalo Dunes was created. A non-profit organization, this group understands the impact hosting events like the AJGA Kansas Junior at Buffalo Dunes has on the community and is working to ensure that the course continues to get and keep such events. In an effort to aid in this process, the AJGA has teamed up with the Friends of Buffalo Dunes for the tournament’s Transamerica Junior-Am event. According to Mr. Allen, the charitable contribution that comes from this event has played a huge role in their improvement efforts. Currently on the docket is a new clubhouse, which Mr. Allen says would “mean an awful lot to Garden City as it would really help attract and maintain the tournaments coming.” The project is currently in its infant stages and has been presented to the town’s city council, where it received a significant amount of support.
With beautiful courses and a supportive community, it’s no surprise that Garden City is quickly becoming a destination for golf in western Kansas. As another year of the AJGA Kansas Junior at Buffalo Dunes comes to a close, so too does another year of the organization’s relationship with Garden City. The future looks bright, though, both for the golfers out on the course and for Garden City.