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Opinion & Analysis

13 Revealing Photos from an AJGA golf event

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The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) is a breeding ground for college golfers; according to its mission statement, the AJGA is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf.” Some of the best juniors in the country/world collect at AJGA golf events to compete, hone their competitive skills, and also to showcase their talents to college recruiters who use AJGA scores, finishes and performances to evaluate prospective student-athletes. They also pay a lot of money to play in these events — this particular 54-hole event cost $295 entry fee (plus any travel, lodging and practice rounds).

Name a player on the PGA Tour, and chances are he played in AJGA events as a junior… Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, whoever you can think of really. Even yours truly, the GolfWRX Editor, once upon a time played in AJGA events. But that was over 10 years ago now, and I wanted to revisit an AJGA event to see how things have changed.

So, recently, I went to the AJGA Junior at Forest Lake presented by Tom Holzer Ford in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan to cover the event. Below are my takeaways.

Listen to the Two Guys Talking Golf podcast for more of my opinions and takeaways!

1) Treated like Tour players

Each of the players are given individual lockers with their names on them for the week. I’ve always been a change-the-shoes-in-the-parking-lot kind of guy myself, but this is a nice touch.

2) It’s official

Like most professional events, the AJGA events have tents, waters, granola bars, tees, scorecards and pencils on the first tee. And they announce your name/hometown, which is always intimidating.

3) Sponsors

As a popular junior golf organization, the AJGA attracts a number of big-name sponsors.

But the most important sponsor is Care for the Course. These kids hit pretty much every green, so repairing ball marks on the green is crucial.

4) College Coaches do show up

During the first round of a random AJGA event in Michigan, there were a number of college coaches on site, representing DI, DII and DIII colleges. While that does mean added pressure for the 12-18 year old kids, it also means that playing well in these events could very well land you a scholarship. After talking with a few of the college coaches, however, it’s often positive body language even after a double bogey that can really impress coaches. Juniors, keep that one in mind.

5) Push carts, or carry bags?

By my estimation, about 70 percent of the competitors used pull carts. Back in my days of AJGA golf, it was rare to find 1 or 2 juniors using push carts. Why the change? Well, it seems kids have smartened up. Speaking with a few competitors, it seems they prefer push carts over carry bags because it adds additional space for water bottles, scorecards, weather gear, umbrellas, and it’s easier on your body during long rounds.

6) Yea, these kids are good

16-year-old Maxwell Moldovan shot a 9-under 62 (and course record) in the first round of the event. He made 9 birdies against 9 pars. Speaking with him after the round, he seemed unfazed by the 62, instead enjoying his position and plotting his first AJGA victory. These kids just have no fear. (Also, live scoring is awesome).

The new course record holder was gaming a mixed iron set of Titleist CBs and MBs (as shown above), and was using custom Titleist SM7 wedges stamped with “M2,” surely a play on his initials. And yes, he’s pro-push cart.

7) The most nerve-racking moment in the round

Have you ever shot a great round in a tournament, then been nervous you’d make a stupid scoring mistake and get DQ’d, so you go over your round multiple times to confirm the scores? I know I can’t be alone.

8) Tough track

The quirky, par-71 golf course measured just 6,283 yards on the scorecard — AJGA employees estimate most events are played between 6,800 and 7,200 yards — but many of the holes seemed to either take driver out of the players’ hands (although they typically hit driver anyway), or at least made hitting driver very difficult.

Plus, they had pins tucked pretty good. After the round, participants estimated the greens were running at about a 12 on the stimp, and one player said “the greens were some of the hardest I’ve putted on all summer.”

Also, painted dirt inside the cups goes a long way to making the tournament feel more official. I thought they painted cups white so the TV cameras could better see where the hole is, and as far as I know this AJGA event wasn’t televised, but hey, it looks cool.

9) Keeping up

The AJGA keeps players moving, timing them on a number of holes at “timing stations,” and handing out warnings for slow play. Enough warnings and the group gets reprimanded with a penalty stroke. There’s not nearly as much leeway out here as on the PGA Tour… they do actually hand out penalty strokes, and the participants seemed well aware of that.

10) Cross-hand putting grips

Everyone out there was using a cross-handed putting grip. Literally, everyone I saw was putting cross-handed.

11) Rules officials

Like any big tournament, rules officials swarm the course. This kid hooked his tee shot up against an outhouse, and resolved the situation with a volunteer and a rules official. As soon as he hit his shot, he asked to make sure “Are we still on pace?” That’s the timing stations doing their jobs.

12) Parents

Parents can be seen all over the course, following their son/daughter, grinding over each shot just as hard or harder than the players themselves.

“I’m holding up OK, but my husband might have a heart attack,” one mother of a first-time AJGA participant told me. The pressure is real out there for everyone involved.

13) And that’s all she wrote

Check out more photos from the AJGA event here

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Steven McGee

    Aug 14, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Thanks for promoting the AJGA and our club..A lot goes into these events, but the best part are the kids ALL are polite and respectful a wonderful example of the future.

  2. David Bassett

    Aug 10, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    I’ve played a lot of great courses, but Forest Lake’s are some of the fastest I’ve ever seen. Really liked this little feature, Andrew

  3. Alex Podressoff

    Aug 10, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    I’ve worked dozens of AJGA tournaments as a volunteer in various capacities including scoring and timing. These kids are incredible: Great golfers, polite, striving to always be better. As I told one young lady, on your worst day, you are probably a better golfer than I am on my best day. Hats off to the players, the host courses, and of course the AJGA staff. And I should say that the parents are great in supporting their children. Parents and players never fail to say “thank you for volunteering”.

  4. ogo

    Aug 9, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Abolish caddies and make the tour pros carry their own bags. Oh, and no green-reading charts too!

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Opinion & Analysis

High School reunion golf: When 58 feels like 18 again

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golf buddies reunion

Eric and David were winning our match as we approached the halfway point of the back nine at Falls Road Golf Club in Potomac, Md. But when my partner, Chip, yes, chipped in for eagle, their 15-footer for eagle suddenly seemed doubly long. David’s exuberant fist pump after draining his putt to match us said it all – the juices were flowing, and the match wasn’t going to be lost due to lackluster play or attitude. That we were paired together in a reunion tournament 40 years after the Class of 1978 graduated from Winston Churchill High School mattered not. We were athletes then – all four of us played on a Maryland state championship football team together – and, by gosh, our competitiveness was on full throttle now.

The years melted away as we traded stories about yesteryear and we learned about each other’s lives in the four-decade interim. Family and golf are shared passions, and our match showed it. While we were happily catching up in laughs and nostalgia, both teams clearly wanted to win. For bragging rights, of course. Once competitors, always competitors.

Cut to the past: David and Chip went on to play college baseball, while I stayed briefly with football, and Eric went forward playing basketball. Eric was such a gifted athlete that he not only quarterbacked our high school team to a senior year state championship (we also won it our junior year), he led the basketball team to a state title as well. A hoops scholarship to Georgetown followed, where he captained Coach John Thompson’s team his senior year. His teammates included Patrick Ewing, now Georgetown’s coach, among others. If you want to see Eric in action, Google “Michael Jordan game-winning jump shot in national championship.” You’ll find video clips of Eric (pictured below) running at Jordan a hair too late to stop His Airness from elevating and nailing the game-winning jump shot for North Carolina.

georgetown university north carolina national basketball championship 1982

Eric gets there too late to stop MJ’s game-winner in the national championship.

All to say that competition and living the athletic physical life contributed to our formation as people, and while we’re well removed from our peak years, we continue to pursue the pleasure that such activities afford. I’m still playing competitive baseball, and I’m trying to get David to join my team for the coming season, and a few other guys who I ran into at the reunion party the next night – Jimmy Flaikas, Mitch Orcutt, and Brian Hacker. How great it would be for us five former high school baseball teammates to be back on the diamond together. Priceless!

Jimmy and David have concerns about the physical demands, among other things, and whether their bodies are up to it. They’re both in great shape, so I’m confident they would do well. But they’re wise to weigh this carefully; discretion is the better part of valor when aging, after all. And that’s why golf is ideally suited to our current places in the circle of life. No torn meniscus or sprained ankles to be suffered, no concussions or broken bones forthcoming. Instead, we carelessly joked and competed with joyful appreciation of reconnecting through the game during our reunion weekend.

That golf is a lifelong game is one of its most appealing aspects. Perhaps it’s even an after-life game, as two elderly gentlemen illuminated. Lifelong friends now in their 80s, one of them fell deathly ill. His friend visited one last time and they reminisced about the good times shared through the game. As they parted, the friend said to his dying companion, “Do me a favor – let me know if there’s golf in heaven when you get there.” His friend promised he would and then he passed on peacefully that night. The next night, his friend was sleeping when he heard a voice. “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, there’s golf in heaven; the bad news is, you have a tee time tomorrow morning.”

Fore! Now and forever.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Bear Slide Golf Club in Cicero, Indiana

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member AUTIGER07, who takes us to Bear Slide Golf Club in Cicero, Indiana. From the horse’s mouth, Bear Slide Golf Club offers a “Scottish links-style front nine and a traditional style back nine”, and in AUTIGER07’s description of the course, he highlights the tracks excellent variety of different holes on offer.

“Played this quite a bit when I lived in Indianapolis. Was always in really solid shape and the course provides a good mix of short-to-long holes. Pace of play used to be very enjoyable, and you never felt “rushed” during the round.”

According to Bear Slide Golf Club’s website, 18 holes around the course during the week will set you back $39, while the rate rises to $55 if you want to play on the weekend.

@joel63763660

@thelgcsaa

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep 63): Valentino Dixon talks Golf Channel documentary; Marvin Bush remembers his father

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Valentino Dixon shares his amazing story in an exclusive interview with Michael Williams. Also in this episode: a tribute to George H.W. Bush, featuring a conversation with his youngest son, Marvin.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

featured image c/o Golf Channel

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19th Hole

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