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BY ALAN SHIPNUCK JUNIOR


mateur golf in Northern California has a long and glorious history. One of golf ’s most celebrated feel- good moments remains Ken


Venturi taking on Harvey Ward in front of 10,000 fans in the final match of the 1956 San Francisco City Golf Championship. Ten years later a baby- faced Johnny Miller, age 19, finished tied for eighth at the U.S. Open on his home course, The Olympic Club. All these years later junior golf is alive and well in Northern California, but the players are skewing younger and more


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diverse thanks to a variety of youth-development organi- zations that have flourished in the Tiger Woods era. The First Tee is the most famous of them, with a ubiquitous presence on golf telecasts that comes with benefactors like the PGA Tour, PGA of America and Augusta National. The emphasis of the First Tee is teaching life skills through golf and introducing the game to the kids that otherwise have few portals into the golf world. Most of the First Tee locations have practice facili- ties but no actual golf course. The North- ern California Golf Association’s Youth on Course program


Some 120 courses around Northern California participate in Youth on Course. Last year the NCGA kicked-in for some 60,000 rounds.


32 / NCGA.ORG / FALL 2012


The NCGA Foundation’s Youth on Course program perpetuates the tradition of outstanding junior players in the region.


was created five years ago to bridge the gap. “A driving range and


putting green is a great way to learn basic skills,” says Adam Heieck, the execu- tive director of the NCGA Foundation. But over the years it has become increas- ingly clear that kids need access to actual courses, a role Youth on Course seeks to fulfill. Some 120 facilities


around Northern Califor- nia participate in Youth on Course, and they’re hardly pitch-and-putts; Poppy Hills and Harding Park are just two high-profile examples. Members of the program can play 18 holes for five dollars or less. The NCGA subsidizes the greens fee by reimbursing the courses for the difference between the youth rate and its typical junior tariff. Last year the NCGA kicked-in for some 60,000 rounds.


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