Much has been written about junior golf and scheduling. I wanted to go beyond the speculation and carefully examine the data; what does it take to win at the AJGA level? How hard are the golf courses? What are other juniors doing? What is the best advice for building a junior schedule? If you’re interested in these answers, then read on!
To help the junior golfer, their families and instructors, I took the time to crunch numbers behind the AJGA. Here’s what I found when examining the numbers for 2017:
Junior All Stars
For Junior All-stars we found the average winning per round score for boys was 69.97 and the average 10th place score per round was 72.95. The average yardage for these events was 6599 and the average course rating was 73.35. The average grad year of a winner was 2019. This means to win; the average boy had a tournament handicap of approximately +3.
For Junior All-stars for girls, we found the average winning score per round to be 71.1 and the average score per round for 10th place was 74.9. Girls on averaged played courses which were 5751 yards long with a course rating of 71.95. These means to win; the average girl would need a handicap of about scratch in tournaments. The average graduation year of a winner was 2020.5.
For Preview tournaments, we found that the boy winners averaged 72.81 per round. The 10th place boy averaged 76.6 per round. The average course was 6484 long with a course rating of 71.77.
For girls we found that the winners averaged 75.6 per round. The 10th place girl averaged 83.11 per round from an average yardage of 5610 with a course rating of 73.08.
AJGA Open Events
The average winning score per round was 69.46. The average 10th place score per round was 72.75 on an average length of 6849 and slope of 71.9. For girls the average winning score per round was 69.36. The average 10th place score per round was 74.34. The average course was 5769 yards with a slope of 70.7.
Note on Junior Girls Golf
In my previous article titled, “In-depth analysis of the early signing period for NCAA Division 1 Women’s Golf,” I note that the scoring differential of the players within the top 40 in the class was -4.01 compared to 9.26 which is the overall average for Division 1 Golf. The data collected here demonstrates these differences; winners at AJGA previews are scoring approximately 8 shots better than the person finishing 10th. While at AJGA Open events the number is closer to 5. This numbers highlight the crop of young talents women who are developing in junior women’s golf.
Rounds Under Par
- In total there were 1698 rounds under par by boys in 2017
- In total there were 454 rounds under par by girls in 2017
Please note that when these numbers are compared at random to years since 2003, and then adjusted for the number of events, it demonstrates that junior golf has not really gotten much better over the past 15 years. Instead it is about the same.
Major Takeaways from analysis of AJGA Events
- Remember that tournaments are not the only way to test your game; use random practice (and maybe even some responsible gambling) at your local course to simulate tournament conditions and learn to win
- Play a reasonable distance day to day: so many young people are playing golf at their home golf course from “the tips.” Our data suggests that 15-year-old boys should be practicing from about 6500 yards, while 15-year-old girls should be playing 5800 yards. 16-18-year-old boys should be practicing from about 6800 yards while 16-18-year-old girls should be practicing from about 6000 yards.
- Learn to Break Par: to win at Junior Golf, it is likely going to take the ability to break par (or come very close). Boy golfers serious about playing Division I golf must likely have home course handicaps in the range of +3 or better. This is also the case for girls who want to compete at the highest level of women’s golf. If you play at an extremely difficult course, don’t be afraid to play very short until you are able to shoot in the mid 60’s. Like any skill, breaking par takes time and practice.
I also took time to examine the schedules of 20 junior golfers. I looked at two groups; players ranked between 1-10 in Junior Golf Scoreboard and players ranked 500-510. When looking at the top 10 players in Junior Golf Scoreboard, they played an average of 6.3 events per year/18 total rounds compared to an average of 15 events/30 total rounds for players with an average rank of 505. This data is somewhat misleading because the best juniors are playing a schedule which include major amateur tournaments which are not recorded on Junior Golf Scoreboard and further analysis suggests that they are playing a total tournament schedule of about 15 events per year.
The gap in junior golf between the best players and everyone else is closing; the top 10 players in Junior Golf Score Board accumulated 10 wins, whereas the players ranked 500-510 had 8. Both are breaking par a considerable amount of time and have net scoring differentials at or below 0, making them approximately 72.5 averages or better in tournament golf. The differences to not are the best players are breaking par more often (50 percent of the time compared to 23 percent) and shooting in the 80’s far less (2/188 rounds compared to 30/308 rounds). However, the best players are also making specific schedule; only 20 percent of the top 10 junior golfers played an event in December or January (both played in South Florida), compared to 70 percent of players ranked between 500-510 who often played in worst climates during colder months which often result in poor scores.
The best players play a schedule where they have proper time to prepare for events and rarely play leading up to events. A typical schedule would include an event in February (typically an AJGA Invitational), an event in April (Sage Valley) and then no golf until mid-June or July when the players have had time to finish school and properly prepare for summer golf.
Taking time off is an important distinction in the scheduling of the very best players; they allow themselves time for not only rest but also for digestion of the skills and to build new skills. Too many junior golfers and their families have been taken by skillful marketing that suggests playing tournaments is very important for the scholarship process when the data and feedback from coaches suggest otherwise.
Based on the data collected and my own personal experience, here is some advice for junior golfers and their families trying to build a schedule:
- The schedule should have between 8-15 tournaments. It is not important to travel far and if money is tight, put money towards a membership at a course rather than events.
- For people north of the Mason-Dixon Line, apply the 2-month Rule; don’t play your first summer tournament until your home course has been open and playable for 2 months and you have played at least 20 rounds.
- Quality > Quantity. Choose a schedule which will allow you to not only properly prepare but compete during a time without distractions like major tests.
- Use high school golf to build competitive experience. Contrary to myth, almost all the best juniors play high school golf.
- Avoid tournaments in December and January; not only is the weather statistically the worst, but new NCAA rules do not allow coaches to recruit off campus during December.
Mondays Off: How is the new PGA schedule looking? Gross golf bag cleaning story!
The new PGA schedule is out and how will so much major golf look in the fall. What golf gear would you buy with your stimulus check if you could blow it all on golf? Knudson has a gross story about cleaning out a golf bag.
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Tiger at the Masters: The 3 that got away
This time last year, Tiger Woods earned his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters, breaking a 14-year drought at Augusta National and completing a storybook career comeback (see Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters WITB here).
Between his 2005 and 2019 victories, Woods gave himself several chances to reclaim the green jacket, but for one reason or another, the championship continuously eluded the 15-time major winner.
Looking back on that drought, three years in particular stick out in my mind where Woods (being the ruthless closer that he is) could, and maybe should, have capitalized on massive opportunities.
A unique tournament broke out at the 2007 Masters with chilly and windy conditions meaning we would see an over-par score winning the event for the first time in a generation.
Unusually however was the fact that Tiger Woods had got himself into a fantastic position heading into the final day’s play—one stroke back of the lead and in the final group.
By the first hole on Sunday, Woods had a share of the lead. A couple of holes later, and he was the sole leader. But instead of the game’s greatest ever closer doing what he does best, we saw the first small chink in Tiger’s major armor.
Unable to keep up with the improved scoring on Sunday, Woods finished the championship two strokes behind Zach Johnson. It was the first time Woods lost a major in which he held the lead at some point in the final round.
Summing up after the round why things hadn’t turned out the way the entire golf world expected, Woods said
“Looking back over the week I basically blew this tournament with two rounds where I had bogey, bogey finishes. That’s 4-over in two holes. The last two holes, you just can’t afford to do that and win major championships.”
In one of the most exciting final rounds in Masters history, an electric front-nine charge from Woods coupled with a Rory McIlroy collapse saw the then 35-year-old tied for the lead heading into the back nine.
After back-to-back pars on the challenging 10th and 11th holes, Woods found the green on the 12th before it all slipped away. A disastrous three-putt was followed by a deflating five on the par-5 13th and an agonizing near-miss for birdie on 14.
In typical defiant fashion, Woods then flushed a long iron on the par-5 15th to give him five feet for eagle and what would have been the outright lead. But he couldn’t find the cup.
Directly following his round, a visibly miffed Woods said
“I should have shot an easy 3- or 4-under on the back nine and I only posted even. But I’m right there in the thick of it and a bunch of guys have a chance. We’ll see what happens.”
What happened was eventual champion Charl Schwartzel did what Woods said he should have done—shooting 4 under on the back to win his first major.
Luck, or lack of, is a contentious topic when it comes to sports fans, but at the 2013 Masters, Woods’ shocking fate played out as if those on Mount Olympus were orchestrating the tournament.
Woods entered the 2013 Masters as the World Number One, brimming with confidence having won three out of his first five tournaments to start the year.
By Friday afternoon, Woods had cruised into a share of the lead, before crisply striking a wedge on the par-5 15th as he hunted for another birdie.
In a cruel twist of fate, Woods’ ball struck the pin and ricocheted back into the water. “Royally cheated!” shouted on-course announcer David Feherty. Nobody could argue otherwise.
A subsequent “bad drop” turned a probable birdie into a triple-bogey placing Woods behind the proverbial 8-ball for the rest of the tournament. The game’s ultimate closer should have been in the lead with two rounds to play on a front-runner’s paradise of a course; instead, he was in chase-mode. (From 1991-2012, 19 of the 22 winners came from the final group).
Woods tried to rally over the weekend, but if he didn’t think the 2013 Masters was ill-fated for himself by Friday evening, then he would have been excused to do so on the eighth hole on Saturday.
Had Woods’ golf ball missed the pin at 15 on that hot and humid Spring afternoon in 2013, then he not only wins, but he likely wins going away.
The Wedge Guy: Power Leak No. 1: Your grip
One of the things I like the best is when a friend or stranger asks me to take a look at their swing to see if I can help them. I never get into the “lesson” business, because that is the domain of our golf staff at the club. But I have spent a lifetime in this game, and have studied the golf swing pretty relentlessly. I also have been blessed with a pretty good eye.
So, the other day, I was out hitting some balls in the afternoon, and a good friend from the club asked if I’d take a look at where he is losing power. Darrell is a big guy and a good player, but not nearly as long as you would think he’d be. He plays with the “big dog” money game, which has a few really big hitters that can be quite intimidating.
I’ve played with Darrell enough to know exactly where his power leaks were, so when he came out to the range, I watched him hit a few and dropped the first one on him.
“It’s your grip!”
He, like so many amateur golfers, was holding the club too far out on the end, and much too high in his palms — not low in the fingers like you should. I’ve always been of the opinion that the grip is the most important fundamental in the entire golf swing. Without a solid and fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, the rest of the swing cannot function at its best. Hogan thought it was so important, he dedicated a whole chapter of “Five Lessons” to the subject.
You’ll see the occasional pretty good scorer at the club with a funky grip, but you never see a bad grip on tour. The golfer who has mastered a great grip is the most teachable there is.
In my opinion, the grip is only ‘personal’ to a small degree. Whether you like to overlap, interlock or use the full finger grip (not baseball)…whether you like to rotate your hands a little stronger or weaker . . . the fundamentals are the same, and they aren’t negotiable.
The club has to be in your fingers to allow the “lag” that builds power, and to allow or even force the optimum release of the club through impact. The last three fingers of the left hand have to control the club so that it can be pulled through the impact zone. The right hand hold is limited to the curling of the two middle fingers around the grip, and neither set of forefingers and thumbs should be engaged much at all. One of the best drills for any golfer is to hit balls with the right forefinger and thumb totally disengaged from the grip. Google “Hogan grip photos” and study them!!!!!!
So, with the changes in the grip I had Darrell make, he immediately began ripping drivers 15-20 yards further downrange than he had. The ball flight and even sound of the ball off the driver was more impressive. So we went out to play a few holes to see what happened.
Historically, Darrell is only 5-10 yards longer than me at best, and sometimes I outdrive him. But not anymore!! On those five holes we played late that afternoon, he consistently flew it out there 20-25 yards past my best drives.
And that made us both really happy!
Next Tuesday, I’ll talk about the second in this series on Power Leaks.
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