Building on Success
Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado taking it up a notch for season 2
by Gary Baines
The Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado set the bar very high with its inaugural season last year. With the CGA partnering with the Colorado PGA and the CWGA, the Alliance conducted 88 competitions and had 838 members. More importantly, it lived up to its goal of being a one-stop shop for major junior golf-related matters in Colorado.
"Our beginning year we were hoping to shoot, using a golf analogy, 1 or 2 over par," Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Alan Abrams, the president of the JGAC and the director of golf at Indian Tree Golf Club, said at the recent CWGA Annual Meeting. "But we had an incredible sub-par round and ended up winning the tournament. Exciting things happened for us that first year."
But one thing about setting a high bar is that it's a formidable standard to meet going forward. That's the situation that faces the JGAC as it begins season 2 in 2017. The second-year activities have already started with the kickoff last Sunday of the "Off-Season Education Series." And next weekend (April 8-9) will mark the first JGAC tournaments of the year as a Tour event is planned for the Country Club of Colorado in Colorado Springs and a Spring Series tournament for Pueblo Country Club.
All told, there are about 119 competitions planned for this year, a total which includes Drive Chip & Putt qualifiers but not PGA Junior League events. That's up a whopping 35 percent from last year's total.
"I credit the (Colorado) PGA for this," said CGA managing director of operations Dustin Jensen, a director of the JGAC along with Colorado PGA assistant executive director Keith Soriano. "We have the super-competitive events (for top-level players) covered. We didn't need more of those tournaments. Where we needed to grow was to engage other junior golfers -- not just the high end, but everybody."
Which led to the decision to create a JGAC Prep League, a pilot program that ideally will include 27 events in 2017, mostly from mid-August to the beginning of October. The idea is that these events would offer competitive opportunities to junior varsity-level golfers and players who haven't had the chance to compete much. (The fall is the boys prep golf season and the JGAC will partner with high schools in this endeavor).
Another addition to the JGAC agenda this year is a Western Slope swing during the tournament season. A total of six events will be held in western Colorado:
-- June 6 at Vail Golf Club.
-- June 28 at Battlement Mesa Golf Club.
-- July 16 at Willow Creek Par-3 in Eagle-Vail, a team event.
-- July 17-18 at Gypsum Creek GC and Eagle Ranch GC, a two-day event.
-- July 19 at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction.
-- And Aug. 5-6 at Tiara Rado Golf Course in Grand Junction, the Western Junior Championship, which takes the place of the old Daily Sentinel Western Chapter Junior Championship.
"We really made a concerted effort to get events in western Colorado," Jensen said. "We had the rest of the state covered. We have a huge contingent of kids -- probably 30 -- who come over from West Slope to play in our events. We needed to make an effort to reach out to them and have some events over there."
Another new wrinkle this year is a "spring points chase". The top three boys and top three girls in the points standings after three spring Tour events will earn spots in the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior by Transamerica that's being hosted by Walnut Creek Golf Preserve (the former Heritage at Westmoor) June 6-8.
And, of course, there's always a focus on the JGAC majors -- the de facto Grand Slam events for junior golf in Colorado, both on the boys and girls side. This year they're set for Eisenwhower Golf Club at the Air Force Academy (Colorado Junior PGA June 12-14), Legacy Ridge Golf Course in Westminster (Colorado Junior Amateur July 10-12), Black Bear Golf Club in Parker (Colorado Junior Match Play July 31-Aug. 2), and Cherry Hills Country Club (JGAC Tour Championship Oct. 7-8).
The boys and girls Junior America's Cup competitions also fall under the auspices of the JGAC. This year, the boys tournament is July 25-27 in Dupont, Wash., while the girls tourney is set for Aug. 1-3 in Henderson, Nev.
Beyond tournaments and competitions, another addition this year is the aforementioned Off-Season Education Series, taught by highly regarded instructors and top experts in a given field.
The series includes four sessions in the spring, starting last weekend with the keys to practice and the mental game. And there will be several more in the fall.
Other sessions in the spring are entitled The Road to College Golf (Sunday, led by many of the NCAA Division I head coaches in Colorado); Performance on the Course and in the Gym (April 23, led by Elena King and Dee Tidwell); and Focus on the Short Game (May 7, led by Jerry Walters and Doug Wherry).
All told, JGAC officials are anticipating a 10 percent increase in membership this season compared to 2016.