Junior golf lost one of its great visionaries last week as Mike Bentley, founder of the American Junior Golf Association, passed away Thursday, April 8, at age 59
Bentley grew up in the Atlanta area and had a passion for golf. He worked as a reporter for a small DeKalb County newspaper, covering high school sports in the early 1970s. Supporting amateur golf programs and writing about youth sports, he realized kids did not have the opportunity to compete in golf at the level he thought they deserved. Many clubs in Atlanta were exclusive and he wanted to give kids the opportunity to play in high-level competition while providing exposure to college coaches.
In 1974, Bentley began the DeKalb Junior Golf Association, which eventually evolved into the Atlanta Junior Golf Association, and ran handful of tournaments with volunteer rules officials. With bigger dreams of tournaments on a national scale, he launched the American Junior Golf Association and held the Association’s first event, the Tournament of Champions (now Rolex Tournament of Champions) in August 1978 at Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill, Fla.
Bentley served as the AJGA president and led the Association for the first five years of its existence from 1978-1983.
"I can't tell you in words how much (the AJGA) means to me," Bentley told Golfweek in 2007. "It's my legacy, it's the one thing I can truthfully say came out of me, but there's a lot of cool people that made it work."
Under Bentley’s guidance, vision and hard work, the AJGA gained strength during its early years and has grown to a membership of approximately 5,000 juniors from 49 states and 30 countries, with a 2010 schedule that includes 85 tournaments.
Read more about Bentley’s influence on the AJGA and his impact on the junior golf world in the upcoming issue of the AJGA Insider.