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Upstart TYGA program filling a

need for junior golf in the Triad By STEVE HUFFMAN


It’s part of the learning experience. “We’re trying to get parents comfort-

rganizers believed for a long while there was a demand for more playing opportunities for

local junior golfers, thus the creation of the Triad chapter of the Tarheel Youth Golf Association (TYGA). The chapter was conceived earlier this

year and despite still being in its infancy, is producing good results. “It has shown there’s a big need for

what we’re doing,” said Chris Haarlow, an instructor and director of the junior program at Robert Linville’s Precision Golf School.

While the TYGA oversees the TYGA

Triad Chapter, those with Precision Golf School are responsible for its day-to-day operation. The first TYGA Triad tournament was

held in early June at Bermuda Run West. About 40 golfers – all 17 or under – partici- pated. That’s a pretty remarkable number considering entries for the event had only opened a few weeks earlier. Close to 60 youth golfers were involved

in the following tournament at Starmount Country Club and another 50 teed it up when the event moved to Gillespie Golf Course.

Already, the number of TYGA events

planned through the fall has increased to 17 from the 12 that were originally project- ed. Organizers believe there’ll be between 350 and 400 participants by year’s end. “We’re really pleased with the

response,” Haarlow said. “You’ve got to remember we only started organizing this in February. We’re still ramping up plans.” The TYGA was created to help young

people bridge the gap between their intro- duction to the game and the world of com- petitive golf, a whole different creature by most estimations. It was also created, Haarlow said, so

parents of the junior golfers might become acquainted with all that’s involved with tournament golf. Knowing when to have their child at the course on the day of a tournament isn’t something all parents understand. If a parent is following his or her child

around a course during a tournament, there are even basic rules of etiquette with which they may not be aware. For instance, where does a parent park a golf cart so they may watch play while also staying out of the way of the golfers?

able with all that’s involved,” Haarlow said. “The parents are learning as the kids are.” He said the Triad chapter is also intend-

ed to help reverse a drop-off in the number of middle school and high school students playing golf, those who might be on the cusp between playing or not playing. Haarlow said that when it comes to high

school teams, there are still quality players participating, those who vie for No. 1 or No. 2 slots at individual schools. What’s miss- ing, he said, is the turnout of golfers who round out the remainder of a team, those who might not be among the elite. “The kids who are good, they’re still

out there,” Haarlow said. “What’s lacking are the Nos. 3-4 players who are not getting enough experience.” Jason Cox is director of Junior Golf for

the Carolinas Golf Association. He said that while the Triad chapter of TYGA is the state’s first, other chapters in other parts of the state will likely soon be created. “We hope to add a few more down the

road, in the Triangle and elsewhere,” Cox said.

The Triad chapter has demonstrated the

need, he said, noting, “It has been very well received. We’re very encouraged.” He agreed with Haarlow that the pur-

pose of the Triad chapter is to teach parents as well as children all that’s involved with tournament golf. “Anytime you do a series of tourna-

ments, you’re educating both the players and their parents,” Cox said. “That’s espe- cially important when the parents don’t play golf themselves. It’s a learning experi- ence for them as well as their children.” The Triad tournaments are divided into

9- and 18-hole events. The younger golfers play nine holes while the older ones play a full 18. Haarlow said about 70 percent of the golfers play 18. The tournaments are affordable. There

is a $10 fee for chapter membership, which qualifies golfers for discounted tournament rates: Events are $25 for members and $35 for non-members. Tournaments are open to boys and girls

in all age divisions in the current TYGA structure. The TYGA is a division of the Carolinas Golf Association, a nonprofit gov- erned by the CGA Executive Committee. The TYGA was founded in 1996 and is open to any person 18 and under who has not started college.

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