Spring 2017

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Founded in 2006 with less than a handful of participating courses, Youth on Course has blossomed into a national sensation, providing golf for $5 or less to junior golfers at more than 400 courses stretching from the Golden State to Georgia. While Youth on Course has its own unique approach, all the programs may vary in approach, locale and curriculum. All also collectively hold close the game's tenets, along with a knowing that golf for kids is as much a bout building great people as creating good players. "Young people have a lot of challenges today, and so do parents," says Seaside native Hugh Smith, a one-time caddie at Pebble Beach and now director of the Pacific region for The First Tee. "And I think programs like The First Tee really help people stay on track and help parents have the support system in the community. And then programs like Youth on Course are just so exciting. Access can be a big challenge for many young people." With 23 First Tee chapters in his purview, Smith reflects on his own Northern California junior golf experiences (which included an NCGA college golf scholarship from Johnny Miller) as paving his path and passion to not simply becoming a quality player, but, moreover, a quality person. "I credit a lot of my passion for my early engagement. As a young person growing up in the Bay Area, with the support of the NCGA, it was an amazing experience for me," Smith says. Golf, of course, is a swing-by-swing game. And as the macro level shows a very healthy level of junior participation across the region's courses, a closer look at the dynamic and diverse personalities driving the youth game offers individual portraits of why the fairways of tomorrow appear ceaselessly promising.

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