Saturday, June 18, 2016
FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME
First Tee, Sedgefield CC, Greensboro, NC
Par 5, Sedgefield CC, Greensboro, NC
Practice Range, Sedgefield CC, Greensboro, NC
Ragged Head Cover, Sedgefield CC, Greensboro, NC
US OPEN WEEKEND
I spent the past week walking the fairways with playing groups of teenagers on the Donald Ross golf course at Sedgefield CC in Greensboro, NC. This was an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event whose mission is “developing golf’s next generation.” The Haas family hosted the event. When reflecting on his son Bill’s AJGA experience, Jay Haas said “I told him any competition he can play in is good for him going forward, but the end result is growing up in many ways, not necessarily as a golfer, but as a person.” Jordan Spieth commented that “For me, it took my game from ‘I think I’m pretty good’ to a very humbled experience of ‘these guys are good and you need to work your butt off’. To win an AJGA event then is as hard as it is to win a PGA Tour event now. They’re not easy.” Annika Sorenstam observed that “I am most impressed with the life lessons they instill such as the importance of manners, respect, leadership skills, and giving back to communities.”
This tournament consisted of a full four days of competitive golf. As a scoring volunteer, I had the pleasure of watching these young men take on a PGA caliber test of golf at the highest level with tee boxes and pin placements that were the same as those in place for the Wyndham Championship. Unlike PGA players, AJGA players have no caddy and carry or pull their own bags. After walking with them on my first day in hot and humid weather, I was dehydrated and dragging at the end of the round. They went off to the practice range! Players came from California to the Carolina’s across the country and all corners of the world like Japan, Australia and Trinidad. I followed a young California player on the final day that shot a four under 66 with five birdies and only one bogey which was the result of a Donald Ross signature turtle back green. He finished tied for seventh place along with another player I had followed. That’s some tough competition!
I had brief opportunities to chat about the players with some of the parents, coaches and instructors that were also following the college prospects. Without exception, they mentioned that these players had picked up the game at a very early age using short plastic clubs and then had begun to focus on golf as their dedicated passion in life after sampling other venues. These young men were all about the business at hand on the course, but quite personable off the course in the tournament room. The ping pong table was always competitive after a round and the practice range was busy before and after every round.
It was a gratifying week to observe and interface with these young players and their support people, including the dedicated lone parents who walked the rounds with them. There were no teeming crowds or “Arnie’s Armies” moving en masse as the players made their rather solitary way down the fairways, onto the putting surfaces and off to the next tee box. Adoring nameless fans were not a factor in their motivation. A quick photo I took with my iPhone which I was using to communicate scores in real time says it all for me. The ragged R9 head cover of one of my players I was scoring is a small manifestation of the countless grueling hours spent in solitary practice on the ranges and putting greens around the country. And as many weekend golfers can relate, all the effort can be summarized as simply "for the love of the game".