Spring 2017

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26 SPRING 2017 | WWW.NCGA.ORG By the time Aaron Hartesveldt encounters youngsters on the Junior Tour of Northern California, most are accomplished players. His goal is making sure they stay golfers for a lifetime. "T he kids who play on the Junior Tour of Northern California (JTNC) are more likely to become lifetime golfers and continue playing through young adulthood, which is where golf loses a lot of players," s ays Hartesveldt, a PGA Professional and Director of the Junior Tour of Northern California. The JTNC, which is co-run by the NCGA and Northern California PGA, operates 26 two-day, 36-hole events each season for juniors start- ing at age 10 to 18-year-olds who haven't yet started college. There are two flights for boys and girls at each event, with the championship flight including many nationally-ranked players. More than 800 juniors participated last year, with upwards of 850 expected to play in 2017. According to Hartesveldt, the level of competition on the JTNC is getting stronger every year due to a combination of better athletes trying golf and the sport's governing bodies doing a better job of getting more kids involved. He says competition can be a bit nerve-wracking for newcomers at first, but in the end leads to a lifetime of golf enjoyment. "You see kids who play golf casually as juniors drift away from it as they get into college – that's where golfers turn into non-golfers," he says. "Playing competitively on the Junior Tour of Northern California leads to sustainability in golf because they enjoy the competition – golf is going to be a big part of their adult life going forward." Less than two years after retiring from a 30-plus year post as the head golf professional at Napa Valley Country Club, Mitch Johnson isn't sitting on a porch swing drinking lemonade. "I always had in my mind that I would get back to promoting the game," Johnson says. Armed with no formal funding, seed dol- lars which were raised to honor the memory of a fallen member of the Napa's Women's Twilight League led Johnson to becoming the director of a new junior golf program with the Boys & Girls Club of Napa Valley, which debuted at the outset of 2017. Offered to current Boys & Girls Club members at a mere $100 for the program's two-months of after-school sessions, kids enjoyed two 90-minute golf lessons a week from early February through early April. With Monday classes at Napa Valley CC and Wednesday classes hosted by Chardonnay Golf Club, participants received a cap, logo shirt, free use of donated clubs and course transporta- tion to-and-from the Boys & Girls facility – compliments of a new 24-seat bus donated to the program. With participation numbers for the new program having already exceeded his expectations, Johnson has laid out plans for a Drive, Chip & Putt qualifier, an opportunity to play on a PGA Junior League Team and eventually a caddie program. "All these exciting things are starting to happen and come together in Napa, and I want to be a kind of conduit to help con- nect the dots," says Johnson. "Whether I'm the most active person doing it or not, I just want to make sure we don't miss an oppor- tunity to partner with all the different organizations." PROFILES ROBERT KAUFMAN

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