The American Junior Golf Association's Leadership Links program set a new benchmark in 2021: junior golfers raised more than $4 million for charity.
Launched in 2009 to provide a community service platform, AJGA players have impacted more than 2,500 charities, including more than 50,000 volunteer hours donated. The Leadership Links program makes it easy for kids to develop a fundraising campaign by providing tools to contact donors, collect money online, provide a tax receipt, run events, and thank supporters.
I have run Leadership Links since 2009 and been touched deeply by the stories and families I have worked with. Participants continually show courage in the face of tragedy and adversity, a desire to help others, and a willingness to step in to help when a disaster hits their community or country. I always tell everyone, I have the BEST job at the AJGA.
Eighty-three charities benefited from fundraising dollars in 2020 alone, including vital dollars for Direct Relief and the Golf Emergency Relief Fund.
With nearly 3,800 total program participants, the top five juniors based on overall personal Leadership Links fundraising include:
- Charlotte Hillary of Cherry Hills Village, Colorado: $38,530 for The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch in 2019, the highest total raised in a single year in history, and 2019 Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award winner
- Hannah Kerekes of Irvine, California: $38,350 for the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation
- Andrew Jacobe of Houston, Texas: $34,656 for the Epilepsy Foundation of Texas and The Hemispherectomy Foundation
- Jet Tickle of Bristol, Tennessee: $32,628 for the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation
- Jackson Van Paris of Pinehurst, North Carolina: $32,545 for the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation
Van Paris fundraised for six years, a historical record among all participants. He took over leadership of the Carolina Cup and was named the boys 2020 Jerry Cole Sportsmanship Award recipient for his efforts.
The largest Leadership Links benefiting charity is the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus annually host top fundraisers in the program at their home prior to the PGA TOUR's Honda Classic.
Junior golfers as a whole raise money for charities that impact:
- 75% medical and health-related causes - inclusive of children's hospitals and cancer research
- 20% junior golf and golf-related charities - including specific ACE Grant and The First Tee funding
- 5% other charities led by charities that impact children, relief organizations and community programs to battle hunger and homelessness
The $4 million mark was officially reached during the 2021 Georgia Junior Cup at Atlanta Athletic Club. This State Cup Series event was hosted by brothers David and Maxwell Ford who teamed up with their friends to raise north of $70,000 for The Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation, The Summit Counseling Center, and the AJGA's ACE Grant Program.
The Carolina Cup was also a key contributor to reaching the $4 million mark. Started 11 years ago and run by multiple juniors, the annual fall fundraiser has raised more than $550,000 and helped start the State Cup Series in 2008.
In 2021, eight events are scheduled with more expected to be added. View Schedule