Editor’s Note: This article is a part of the new Stick and Hack series “What If?” In this series, we speculate and question what the PGA Tour would look like under different circumstances.
Over the last 20 years, the junior golf age group has been one of the sport’s most diverse and stable demographics. They fuel the future of golf, especially after the COVID pandemic has pushed participation to record highs.
In 2019, 2.5 million juniors played on a course according to data from the National Golf Foundation. In the same study, 36% of the juniors are girls compared to 15% in 2000. Over 25% of these were also minority players.
This marks a stark difference with the PGA Tour today. Diversity among professional golfers is still lacking compared to other major sports. This is why it is critical for the sport to begin appealing to the next generation.
How can we address this? The answer lies with investing in talent early.
How about a PGA tournament that shines the spotlight on some of the best young golfers in the world? Now, I’m not talking about any kind of amateur championship where the players are competing for a tour card, but rather even younger players.
We saw the spectacle of Charlie Woods at the PNC Championship in December and the interest that can be built with kid phenoms. Matt Kuchar’s son, Cameron, also showed how fun it can be watching a younger player’s approach to the game.
Imagine giving a group of the best kid golfers in the world the chance to match up with the Tour’s premier talent. We would be able to create pairings between younger golfers and professionals, either playing scrabble or stroke play. There would not be any prize winnings and the money generated would go towards growing the game.
There is no question that golf has lost some pull with younger audiences over the past 20 years. Kids tend to gravitate towards other sports that are more attention-grabbing over golf’s slower pace, especially as they age.
However, what if we gave them the opportunity to play in front of a television audience next to the sport’s best?
Not only would this generate interest on the behalf of younger players, but it would also give us names to look for and follow as they age. Perhaps we would get to see a player entering high school go shot for shot with one of the PGA’s best; it would be exciting to see unfold.
This is something that other sports excel at over golf. Basketball, for example, has always televised high school games and marketed on those names.
Another example is with baseball. I always remember watching the Little League World Series as a kid and wanting to be there. It made the sport more interesting and drew me in.
With golf, however, I would love to follow professional tournaments, but it would always feel so far away. When kids see others similar to them on television, it makes everything more interesting. This concept could generate more excitement in golf.
Then, maybe the sport wouldn’t seem occupied by only older players as the perception is today. If there is any hope in revitalizing golf’s popularity, it will come in making it more accessible for kids.
Of course, there are events such as “Drive Chip & Putt” that showcase the talent of kid golfers across the country. However, the PGA could do much more to promote this. This begins on the PGA’s social media page.
Charlie Woods proved this as he essentially took over the PGA’s Instagram account while he played with his father. Tiger himself showed the power a young, lovable figure could have on the sport. Something such as this could recapture that feeling in more up-and-coming golfers.
By having an actual tournament, the PGA could also donate the proceeds towards players who can’t get over the high costs of playing the sport. This remains as one of the largest obstacles as golf tries to modernize. Because of this, there are numerous benefits that help grow the game in this tournament.
With the already well-structured hierarchy of junior golf tours, this would be a realistic tournament to set up. It is time for the sport to popularize a tournament of this nature and cater towards a younger audience.
Tyler Wells is a born-again golfer from northeastern Vermont that has to dodge the rain and snow for most of the year. Currently, he is a collegiate baseball player at the University of New Haven, and he'll use the "it's a different swing" excuse on every bad shot. He can be a decent golfer when he doesn't slice his tee shot into the next fairway.
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