Washington Golf Foundation and WA Golf Youth on Course – a great twosome

by Tom Cade, Editor

Washington Golf Foundation logo

Officially established in November 2022, the Washington Golf Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization that is now leading the way in the dedicated efforts to fostering and advancing the growth of golf in Washington by supporting initiatives and programs that enrich and unite the golf community.

One of these programs is WA Golf Youth on Course, which provides youths with access to play for only $5 per round at over 70 participating courses in Washington and Northern Idaho and an opportunity to develop a lifelong love for the game of golf.

Matt Brown, the Foundation’s new director of development and donor engagement, says that with the Washington Golf Foundation being a new endeavor, he is working on establishing its own foundational beginning.

“It needs its own story, its own reason,” he says. “And the story is an easy one: the WA Golf Youth on Course program is the best initiative that’s come along in the golf industry in a long time. Growing the game by making it accessible to young and beginning golfers is the best possible way to ensure its future, to provide opportunities to junior players, and to help families play together. This resonates with everyone.”

The program is made possible through subsidies from WA Golf and donations to the Washington Golf Foundation.

“Participating courses have complete control over what tee times will be available for WA Golf Youth on Course members,” Brown said. “They can dictate their own restrictions, such as Twilight Only, Weekdays Only, any time after 12 p.m., things like that. Participating courses receive a check each month of successful round submissions in the Youth on Course portal.”

WA Golf YOC logo

Since Matt came on board in early March 2024, 11 courses have already been added to the list of Youth on Course participating facilities in WA Golf territory, which now number over 70 facilities. Youth on Course members also have access to over 2,000 participating facilities across the U.S.

Fueling the golf industry in Washington and Northern Idaho, the structure of WA Golf Youth on Course helps golf courses fill typically unused tee times and garner additional revenue, with more than 40 percent of Youth on Course members playing with paying adults.

“We began looking into junior development programs in 2014, and though we recognized there were several very good programs that already existed in Washington, we realized a need for our state golf association to offer something,” says Shari Jacobson, WA Golf’s head of operations and director of membership and club relations. “Knowing that the cost of golf is a deterrent for kids, we were particularly interested in finding something that could help provide affordable access to golf. We became aware of Youth on Course and contacted them in the fall of 2015 in hopes of learning more about the program.”

Jacobson says she was impressed with the program and was determined to establish it in Washington. “First we met with several junior programs in the state to make sure we weren’t treading on any toes,” she says. “And we sought ways that our programs could potentially complement each other.”

WA Golf began signing youths up and subsidizing golf in June 2016, and a little over 300 juniors signed up for the program that year.

By the end of the 2023 season, that number had grown to nearly 10,000, and in 2023 alone over 40,000 rounds were played by WA Golf Youth on Course members. It has become obvious that the program has filled a very large need, not only for the game, but also for kids and families on and off the course.

“We wanted to have a deeper impact on the junior golf population of Washington, and seeing the success that Youth on Course is having in our region and across the U.S., it’s obvious that the program is a game-changer for the industry,” says WA Golf CEO Troy Andrew. “Growing the game and diversifying its participants have always been goals of the association, and WA Golf Youth on Course is a perfect fit for helping us achieve both objectives.”

Matt Brown
Matt Brown, director of development & donor engagement for the Washington Golf Foundation

For Brown, he is excited to now be part of the efforts.

A Washington native, he attended Decatur High School in Federal Way, then graduated from Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, after which he launched a career in sales and marketing for several local radio stations, corporations, and sports teams.

It was during his time as national sales manager for Cutter & Buck that Matt first met Troy Andrew.

“He and other WA Golf staff came into our office in Seattle to make their apparel selection for the year,” Matt recalls. “Then our paths crossed a couple times at the annual International Association of Golf Administrators conferences.”

Matt would later see the job announcement by the newly created Washington Golf Foundation, for the position of director of development & donor engagement. He put in a query. When Troy contacted him a month later, asking if he wanted to chat about it, Matt was all in.

“I didn’t hold back in the cover letter I sent to Troy along with my resume,” Brown said. “I really feel that my past experience has prepared me for this role with the Foundation.”

He also has three young sons of his own, and sees the value of the WA Golf Youth on Course program, both financially and personally. “I look at my kids, and it really drives me to want to provide every opportunity for them. Youth on Course really hits home for me. It’s easy for me to get excited about it.”

The Foundation’s Board of Directors includes some WA Golf board members, as well as WA Golf past president Doug Rohner and current WA Golf president Mike Kemppainen.

“In being involved with the launch of the Foundation, I get to wear a lot of hats,” Brown said. “It’s one of the great things about it. I know what our overall goal is, and I know that my role is to reach out to the corporate community and the golf community at large, and being the face of the Foundation. Our Youth on Course program really is the ideal initiative that breaks down barriers. Everyone sees the benefit of it.”

Golf is for everyone, after all.