The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) continues to make strides in the expansion of women's opportunities for our membership and beyond. As we celebrate Women's History Month, we reflect on their contributions and achievements within the golf industry. In which, many AJGA alumnae continue to provide great influence on the future generations of female golfers.
In 1984, only 10% of our membership was female, there were no all-girl events on the schedule and our Junior All-America honors recognized more boys than girls. The AJGA female membership has grown to nearly 30% since then, emphasizing the need for more female opportunities.
Today, the AJGA hosts six all-girl events annually. From 2013 to 2022 we hosted 61 all-girls events, a 144% increase from the prior decade. We also created equal representation through our awards and honors including: Rolex Junior All-Americans, Wyndham Cup Teams, Junior All-Star Team, USGA-AJGA Presidents Award, Rolex Junior Player of the Year Award, Board Player Representatives and Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award. The AJGA strives to provide young women with more opportunity to use competitive junior golf as a vehicle to grow and develop.
In 1989, Renee Slone, formerly Renee Heiken, became a part of AJGA history. Slone was one of the 49 girls who competed in the AJGA's first all-girls tournament. The inaugural McDonald's Betsy Rawls Girls Junior Championship took place at Hercules Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware. "I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the first ever all-girls event in AJGA history" Slone says. "It is an honor and a privilege to be the first at anything…. especially something as ground breaking as this."
At the time when Slone competed in the event, there was only one all-girls event on the AJGA's schedule. Today, the AJGA hosts six all-girls events annually. "The growth of the AJGA since my junior golf playing days has been exciting to see," Slone says.
I applaud the efforts of the AJGA to provide more playing opportunities to junior golfers across the nation and in particular young females. To now have six all-girls events annually speaks volumes to the growth of junior golf for girls and the investment the AJGA is making to provide these elite level competitions to develop players.
Slone shares that, "the experiences provided so many valuable life lessons and helped mold me into the person I am today." The AJGA's mission and goals have remained the same since the beginning but continues to evolve with the growth of girls golf, ensuring we equally meet the needs of our juniors.
Many AJGA alumnae have become trailblazers in the golf community and Slone is one of them. After her impressive junior and collegiate career, she played on the LPGA Tour from 1995 to 1997. She also spent time on the Futures Tour and Ladies Asian Tour. Slone later returned to her alma mater, the University of Illinois, to become head coach of their women's golf team and has been in that role since 2006. Slone continues to impact the lives of the next generation of female golfers.
Enjoy every moment! Appreciate the opportunities you are being provided. There is something to be gained from every round and every tournament you play. Take the time to determine what that is. Remember, this is a game so have FUN!
As we reflect on the growth of girls golf within the AJGA, it gives perspective into how far we have come as an organization in providing equitable opportunities for our female membership. Through programs like Leadership Links, ACE Grant and the AJGA internship, we aim to help carve a path for girls to succeed within the golf industry and beyond.