by Tony Dear
Steven Moore can’t wait to play more golf with his dad in 2017.
The 12-year-old McKnight Middle School student from Renton, Wash. plays a lot of basketball and baseball, but says his favorite sport is golf. “I’m always bugging my dad to play,” he says, “even in winter. I just love the game that much.”
Facilitating Steven’s quest to play more golf this year will be his membership in a new initiative funded by the Washington State Golf Association called WSGA Youth on Course (YOC) which enables youths aged 6-18 to play 18 holes at any participating course for just $5. (The course is later reimbursed by the WSGA for any lost revenue, though some courses don’t seek to be recompensed, as their way of contributing to the growth of the game.)
Steven is the son of 710 ESPN radio host Jim Moore who is likewise looking forward to taking advantage of Steven’s WSGA YOC membership.
“How can you beat a program that allows you to take your kid to a quality course for five bucks?” he asks. “It’s terrific that Youth on Course gives me the chance to play with him so cheaply. And I love the variety of participating courses.”
Youth on Course was born 10 years ago at the Northern California Golf Association (NCGA) headquarters in Monterey, Calif. By 2013, Youth on Couse had become so popular in Northern California, other state junior golf organizations were becoming interested.
Now available in 12 states, Youth on Course has over 20,000 members and, since 2006, has discounted over 450,000 rounds of golf.
“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, the WSGA’s 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 the NCGA in the fall of 2015 in hopes of learning more about the program.”
Jacobson says she was extremely impressed, and was determined to establish YOC in her home state. “First we met with several junior programs in the state to make sure we weren’t treading on any toes,” she says. “And we wondered if our programs could potentially complement each other.”
The WSGA began signing youths up and subsidizing golf in June 2016, and over 300 juniors have signed up for the program online through the WSGA’s website. “We are very pleased with the initial response,” Jacobson says.
“We want to have a deeper impact on the junior golf population of Washington, and seeing the success that Youth on Course is having across the western United States, it’s obvious that the program is a game-changer for the industry,” says WSGA CEO/Executive Director Troy Andrew. “Growing the game and diversifying its participants have always been goals of the association, and WSGA YOC is a perfect fit for helping us achieve both objectives.”
Currently there are 14 participating courses in Washington, including some courses operated by Premier Golf Centers LLC.
“At Premier Golf we embrace everything that can positively influence the growth of golf,” says Director of Operations Matt Amundsen, “especially when it comes to youth golfers. What better way to do this than working with the WSGA in the Youth on Course program? Anything we can do to grow the game will pay great dividends down the road.” The 10 Premier courses had a total of 538 WSGA YOC rounds in 2016.
Chambers Bay is also on the list – yes indeed, a former U.S. Open venue that youth can play for five bucks.
Matt Allen, Chambers Bay’s general manager, is similarly committed to the game’s health and has initiated 10 new player programs at Chambers Bay under the banner #1moregolfer. Youth on Course is one of them and has supported 121 rounds this year. “Our involvement in WSGA YOC was just one component of a very comprehensive effort to cultivate and retain new golfers,” says Allen.
In 2017, Jacobson is planning a much bigger launch and promotional campaign, and obviously hopes to attract more new golfers to the game. “Like the national program, the WSGA list of participating courses will significantly increase this year, and will spread throughout the state.”
Moore may not be convinced his son is a child prodigy, but he does believe Steven has the potential to play high school golf one day. “I sense he’s passionate enough about it to put the time in,” he says. “I reckon he’ll get there if he works at it.”
Five dollar rounds through WSGA Youth on Course can only help.
Tony Dear is an award-winning writer who has authored several golf books. With a young active son and daughter of his own, WSGA YOC is a rainbow after long storms.