Making the AJGA Work

Out. On. In.

A successful recipe for a birdie. A nice tee shot out to the fairway, a graceful pitch on to the green and a slow rolling putt in to the hole.

But it could symbolize more. Out, on and in could stand to describe the AJGA fairly well.

With alumni such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Grace Park, it should be no surprise to the average onlooker to observe what comes out of the AJGA.

With elite junior golfers and professional staff members at each event, it should be no surprise to the average onlooker to observe what goes on at the AJGA.

But what may surprise that average onlooker is the notion of what must be put in before an AJGA tournament can be pulled off.

What takes place when the AJGA sets up shop, the Greatest Gig on Grass, is not the result of hard work by a select few, but rather the confluence of tremendous efforts by many.

Working daily is a full-time staff of 47 young and energetic people devoted to carrying out the AJGA’s mission of remaining dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. Behind them stands the AJGA’s Board of Directors, 15 elected individuals with experience and connections in the golf industry and the business community.

But stepping back further provides an even better glimpse at what truly buttresses the AJGA and its ability to fulfill its mission statement. Corporate and individual sponsors. Volunteer tournament chairmen.

Local committee
The ball starts rolling at the efforts of the local tournament chairman. For each of the AJGA’s 72 tournaments, a talented and dedicated volunteer plays the role of on-site contact by pulling strings, making deals, recruiting other committee members and preparing year-round for the event.

As individuals firmly rooted in the communities that host AJGA events, tournament chairmen serve as the eyes and ears of the AJGA on a year-round basis. With the ability to focus on just one tournament and utilize local know-how and connections, tournament chairmen can easily achieve more success in areas such as fundraising, volunteer recruiting, publicity and upgrades to that event’s AJGA experience. Without the aid and leadership of these folks, the AJGA staff would be forced to accomplish everything for a number of tournaments—which would only lead to a lower level of quality.

“Tournament chairmen can do so much for us,” said Jason Etzen, AJGA executive vice president of development. “They are so well connected in their local areas that they are able to accomplish things that we, as a staff, couldn’t get done working out of Atlanta.”

Every year at the tournament cookout for the AJGA’s annual event in New Orleans, longtime tournament chairman Bill Haws organizes a Creole style feast with all the authentic Bayou food any junior golfer could ever desire. This year’s Fore!Kids Junior at TPC of Lousiana was no exception.

The newly minted FootJoy Boys Invitational is about as close as a junior golfer can come to experiencing the feel of a PGA TOUR event without actually teeing it up against the world’s best professionals. Tournament chairman Mark Brazil has spearheaded this effort to drive the caliber of the FootJoy Boys Invitational higher and higher. Brazil, who was an AJGA staff member from 1993-2001, is also the tournament director for the PGA TOUR’s Chrysler Classic of Greensboro.

Among the perks offered to juniors who play in the tournament are Titleist ProV1 range balls, an abundance of media coverage and the opportunity to play a PGA TOUR course at roughly the same yardage as the pros. A clinic for youngsters looking to pick up the game is run with help from tournament participants.

Presenting sponsor Chrysler provided courtesy cars to be displayed on the golf course throughout the tournament week, adding yet another special touch to the event. And this year, FootJoy’s spokesman and “buddy” of PGA TOUR professionals, SignBoy, was on hand to offer encouragement and chum it up with golf’s next generation.

First-year tournament chairman Toni Clark of Orange County, Calif., led the charge in the AJGA pulling off one of the more memorable events of the year. In addition to a celebrity junior-am, the Family Toyota/Family Honda Junior presented by Cox Media featured a concert by a local punk rock band to entertain the tournament field after round one. Additionally, juniors and families enjoyed a staple of California fast-food cuisine at the cookout as In-N-Out provided the meal. Double-doubles all around.

It is through the unparalleled efforts of individuals like Haws, Brazil and Clark that each AJGA tournament takes on a personality of its own to give every participant a unique memory while maintaining the high level of excellence that permeates the AJGA brand and the AJGA experience.

As evidenced by the extraordinary efforts of these volunteers, an AJGA tournament can become quite the extravaganza.

The bells and whistles abound. From complimentary Titleist ProV1 golf balls and Polo Golf shirts for each participant to food and beverage provided for players and families at each tournament to outstanding tournament gifts, the benefits can sometimes seem endless. But all those perks don’t simply materialize—they are a direct result of the generosity of the AJGA’s sponsors.

Simply stated, sponsors make it all possible.

Research has shown the value of an AJGA playing opportunity to be roughly $950 when all services and items are included. Yet the tournament entry fee for an AJGA Open event remains $200.

It is through the efforts of AJGA corporate and individual sponsors that participation in an AJGA event can become so valuable while the cost to participants can stay so affordable.

In-kind donations and financial contributions play a major role in sponsors’ involvement by enabling the AJGA to focus that money towards improving the tournament experience for members.

A tremendous component of the recipe for success of an AJGA event is the facility and its cost—or lack thereof. In order to maintain the ability to focus the available financial resources toward improving the tournament and a junior golfer’s experience there, a donated golf course is essentially a necessity. If 90 percent of a tournament’s budget were dedicated to paying golf course fees, not nearly enough money would be left for all those bells and whistles that have become synonymous with AJGA tournaments.

Donated golf course
No organization can stage a golf tournament of any kind, let alone a first-class tournament for the best golfers the nation has to offer, without a first-class facility. The key cog in the AJGA’s ability to consistently provide memorable tournament experiences to its membership and exposure to college coaches is the chance to stage events at some of the finest golf courses across America.

Over the years, juniors from the AJGA have walked some of the finest fairways and putted on some of the greatest greens in the world. This year saw the AJGA make stops at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Grayhawk Golf Club, Caves Valley Golf Club, The Country Club at Mirasol and The Apawamis Club—to name just a few.

Community involvement/benefits
Aside from the shot in the arm that golf’s next generation gets by playing in AJGA tournaments, the communities that host the events also benefit in many ways.

Most obviously, the economic impact is paramount. AJGA tournaments provide an average of about $150,000 in direct and secondary spending in the local economy at each of its 72 events. Travel costs of tournament participants and AJGA administrative costs are included.

But perhaps as important as the financial boost are the camaraderie and fellowship that often develop among the Association, its sponsors and local supporters.

The city of Ringgold, Ga., located near the Alabama-Georgia-Tennessee tri-state area, is a prime example of the positive impact a town of any size can experience.

In just two short years, the Ringgold Telephone Company Junior has become one of the most spirited events on the AJGA schedule. Community involvement has ranged from thousands of hours of volunteer work to thousands of dollars in support and charitable donations.

“All of us working together put Ringgold on the map,” said Phil Erli, executive vice president of Ringgold Telephone Company. “One of the major focuses was to show what a great community this is.”

A key component in the formula for Ringgold’s success is the Ringgold Telephone Company’s positive reputation in Catoosa County. The satisfaction that so many in the community have with the group spurs them to become involved and support anything that the Ringgold Telephone Company supports.

“The Ringgold Telephone Company does so much for all of Ringgold that everybody sees them being involved and wants to help as well,” said AJGA Tournament Director Ben Kimball, who ran the event this year. “From there, it’s a snowball effect.”

The 2003 AJGA tournament was even voted the best event held in Ringgold by readers of the local newspaper.

One of the longest-running events on the AJGA slate also illustrates what can become when the surrounding residents rally behind the event and the mission of the AJGA. The Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior is hosted at Bellefonte Country Club by the city of Ashland in northeastern Kentucky. First held in 1981, the tournament has always received outstanding support in the form of community involvement.

The biggest factor in Ashland’s ability to attract support is the beneficiary of its charitable efforts.

Proceeds from the tournament and its fundraising efforts go to golf teams from local high schools. The fact that the local media helps promote this only improves the tournament committee’s fundraising efforts.

With title sponsor Natural Resource Partners being a local company in the Ashland area, the relationship between the AJGA and NRP becomes more beneficial to all involved, including the community.

“(NRP president and chief operating officer) Nick Carter has been asked a lot about the AJGA,” said tournament chairman Mary Jo Thompson. “And he loves to talk about the AJGA because he loves the Association. It’s really beneficial for them to be a sponsor because they are local. It’s good to have a sponsor who cares about the youth, especially the youth in our community.”

Giving back to the community
The recently completed AJGA summer season boasts a number of prime examples of unique ways the tournaments have begun giving back to their local community.

The Dunlop Carolina Junior, held in Greenville, S.C., staged a local junior golfer luncheon to provide an up-close-and-personal opportunity for children in the area to observe the talent and dedication needed to succeed in golf on the national level.

Dozens of local youths from the Greenville YMCA attended the event, providing an enormous gallery and cheering section. Upon arrival, the well-behaved youngsters gathered around the first tee to watch the leaders tee off in the final round. The gallery then moved to No. 18 where it created a professional tournament atmosphere. The day concluded with a luncheon for the kids from the Greenville YMCA.

“It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done from a fun standpoint,” said Marshall Bettendorf, tournament chairman for the event. “The reason this was so much fun was that it jolted the juniors and their parents to a new level.”

This year’s Fidelity Investments Junior Classic saw AJGA staff members participate in a job-shadowing program coordinated by tournament sponsor Fidelity Investments and Citizens Schools. Underprivileged teenagers from the Boston area attended the event and worked side-by-side with the AJGA staff to glean experience and knowledge of the golf industry.

Like the AJGA, Citizen Schools is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. A national network of schools, community organizations and businesses, Citizen Schools connects middle school students with trained, experienced teachers and adult professional volunteers.

The AJGA experience for the program’s participants involved two days of golf industry instruction prior to the AJGA event where they were trained on their assigned duties for the tournament. During the tournament week, the teenagers were assigned many regular tasks usually completed by an AJGA staff member such as starting groups, marking the golf course, running pace of play timing stations and more.

“I was proud to be able to allow the kids an opportunity to learn some things they may never have otherwise seen,” said AJGA tournament director Brian Gaydica. “On top of the positive experience for them, it was helpful having a few extra hands on deck to pitch in with all the tournament work.”

Fidelity Investments, the tournament’s sponsor, echoes the AJGA’s satisfaction with the program.

"We are pleased to support these students and look forward to seeing them excel through their apprenticeships,“ said Jennifer K. Brown, executive vice president of communication services for Fidelity Investments.

Limited opportunities exist for tournament sponsorship in 2005. Interested individuals should contact Jason Etzen, the AJGA’s executive vice president of development, by e-mail at or by phone at (877)373-AJGA.