Girls golf growth mirrors PKB Tour’s growth K
By MICHAEL GRAFF
atie Kirk was a swimmer, always a swimmer. But when she became a teenager her dad started taking her out to the golf course. She took his putter onto the green and tapped the ball around a little. Then, she started swinging on her own. Kirk loved the game. But she was just a little late. Growing up in Davidson, she was an eighth- grader when she started play- ing golf seriously. She was 13; some girls her age had been playing since they were six. She took some les- sons, but her coach at the time seemed only interested in watching her at the range. There
the game. But she late. Growing up in was an eighth-
he started play- sly. She was 13; age had been hey were
ome les- oach
weren’t many options in North Carolina for young girls like Kirk to play competitively just five years ago.
re options in
a for young girls y competitively
But soon a friend told Kirk about the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls’ Golf Tour, a tour named for a women’s golf icon and built specifically to give girls between ages 12-18 tournaments to com- pete in. Kirk entered a few of those tournaments. Then she met one of the tour’s founders, Greensboro’s Robert Linville, and started taking lessons from him. She kept playing on the tour, and in 2010, she won the final two major tournaments of the season. Last year, as a senior at North Mecklenburg High School, Kirk finished second in the state’s largest classifi- cation, 4-A.
ago. friend told Kirk y Kirk Bell Girls’ ur named for a con and built
give girls between naments to com-
ntered a few of those Then she met one of ders, Greensboro’s , and started taking
im. She kept playing d in 2010, she won
major tournaments of t year as a senior at
Now, she’s a fresh-
fastest-growing and most prestigious in the country. Founded in 2007 by Linville and his Greensboro-based golf school, Precision Golf, and its nonprofit wing, Triad Youth Golf Foundation, the PKB Tour continues its rapid expansion. In 2012, it will hold tournaments in seven states, up from three last year. It’s already clear that the tour is in for a big year. The season opener in Myrtle Beach in January brought 57 competitors; the second tourna- ment of the year at Pine Needles Golf Club saw 84 players – double what the tour saw at this time last year. Both events were sellouts.
for a big year. The seas Myrtle Beach in Januar com sec me
Club doub saw a year.
proves what the Precision Golf staff believed just five years ago – girls want to play golf competitively year- round, and they just need places to play.
Golf staff beli years ago – g golf compe round, and places to “We
ECU Sports Information photo
Katie Kirk learned to compete on the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls’ Golf Tour and is now playing at East Carolina.
man economics major at East Carolina University on a golf scholarship – and she will always thank the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls’ Golf Tour for that. “I would not be who I am today if I didn’t play golf,” Kirk said. “And those tournaments I played then gave me con- fidence. They had a lot of competition. Just to be able to compare myself to oth- ers, it gave me a lot.”
Kirk is just one of many success stories. More than 65 girls who have played on the PKB Girls’ Golf Tour have earned college scholarships, add- ing to the tour’s reputation as one of the
Before the PKB Tour, girls had the opportu- nity to play competitive golf in the summers. The Carolinas Golf Association sponsored regular events for years. But until the 2000s, girls’ golf dur-
that wa golf la Mike Tour were somet and fi seeme a gap Befo
girls had nity to pl golf in th
ing the school year was limited. Mostly, they just played with the boys. During the 2006-07 high school season, 194 schools had girls’ golf programs, and all competed for two titles – a 4-A, and a 1-A/2-A/3-A classification. Last year, 270 had programs, and championships were awarded in 4-A, 3-A, and 1-A/2-A. The PKB Girls’ Golf Tour can claim at least some credit for the growth. Its season is set up like a regular tour, with weekend tournaments all year, including four “major” champion- ships – the PKB Masters in April, the PKB Open in May, the Precision Junior
“We saw something that was missing in the golf landscape,” said Mike Parker, the PKB Tour director. “We were trying to do something different and fill a niche. There seemed like there was a gap there.”
Peggy Kirk Bell lends her name to the girls golf tour. She is pictured at the 2011 PKB Kick-Off Classic at Pine Needles with Futures Division players, from left, Jennifer Chang, Megan Munroe, Haeley Wotnosky and Taylor Trent.
Girls’ Championship in July and the Tour Championship in September. The tour then plays host to a special Tour Invitational in November for 60 players who qualified during the year. Tour events cost between $100 and $185 to enter. The Triad Youth Golf Foundation is a nonprofit, and it oversees the PKB Girls’ Golf Tour. The foundation has an affiliation with the LPGA/USGA Girls’ Golf program, which kicks in some money to help keep the entry costs down. “Things like this don’t make you rich. These are passion projects,” Parker said.
The tour has two levels – a futures level for players just learning, and a college track named the Bell Division for those on course to take golf beyond high school.
Linville, who has two girls of his own, started the tour with Chris Haarlow. Parker soon became the tour’s director. When they looked for a name for the tour, they looked right at Bell, who was one of the founders of women’s golf and still teaches the sport, even as she enters her 90s.
“What an ambassador to the sport,” Parker said of Bell. “We thought that we were doing something out of the box, like when they founded the LPGA. We thought it represented what our aspira- tions for the tour were. She was a great role model for the girls and for us.”
The events have done more than give girls an opportunity to compete. They are one-stop places to gather for college coaches. At last year’s Tour Invitational, 15 college coaches walked the course, including four from the ACC and three from the SEC. In the Bell Division, girls play with tees set at about 6,000 total yards – the same lengths college women play and about 800 yards longer than most high school competitions.
“There are still a lot of late-comers in girls’ golf,” Parker said. “A girl that picks it up late still has the chance to go to college and play golf in college.” Kirk is one of those.
Kirk went to East Carolina in the fall of 2011, just five years after starting to play the game seriously, just five years after she was more of a swimmer than a golfer, and she traveled with the Pirates’ team for every tournament during the fall 2011 season. She had a 75 scoring average.
“I know a lot of people compare golf to life,” Kirk said. “But playing in tournaments and managing my emo- tions, I learned all of that (from the PKB Tour). And preparing for tournaments, you had to make compromises, whether you wanted to spend time practicing or go do things for fun. The biggest thing I got out of it was learning my priorities. I learned I wanted to work hard and get a scholarship in college.”
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16
| Page 17
| Page 18
| Page 19
| Page 20
| Page 21
| Page 22
| Page 23
| Page 24
| Page 25
| Page 26
| Page 27
| Page 28
| Page 29
| Page 30
| Page 31
| Page 32