Spring 2017

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28 SPRING 2017 | WWW.NCGA.ORG The seed has grown far, far past initial expectations for Youth on Course. Just 11 years since his family's Foundation provided the kickstart dona- tion to take the NCGA Foundation into the future, Paul Morton is amazed at the evolution of Youth on Course. "T here had been people looking at how the NCGA's Foundation could become a more meaningful part of what the NCGA does." said Morton, head of Walnut Creek-based Morton Management LLC. "There were thousands of kids graduating from youth development programs that get all these great life skills and get hooked on the game but when they actually want to play golf, many of them can't." What began in Northern California in 2006 with 10 participating courses and about 75 kids has since grown into a national success with nearly 19,000 members having access to $5 or less rounds at 400 courses around the country. "We couldn't have possibly imagined more than this," admits Morton, who grew up playing the San Mateo muni (now Poplar Creek GC) with a $2/round punch card. "And now, with the evolution of the program, we have our sights on being in every state in the country." With its caddie academy, internships and college scholarships growing to record numbers in 2016, the organization's growth from humble num- bers now has the attention and enthusiasm of the entire golf industry. "It just feels great to know we're making a difference for kids," Morton said. "And these kids are going to become adults someday, and they're our future. And at the same time, we're doing some pretty good things for the golf industry, which needs some help. In every place where Youth on Course is showing up, the junior participation numbers are strong." It's called the "Player Pathway," and Sherman Leland is there to guide kids through the steps. L eland, founder of TGA of the North Bay, has seen his after-school enrichment program evolve from 200 kids upon its founding in 2006 to 750 participants today across Marin and Sonoma Counties. "I get to extol my passion and I have a really good time in front of kids," says Leland, also the head golf coach at San Domenico High School in San Anselmo. "I just really enjoy watching them try, try harder, smile and when they're down I pick them up." With chapters in 23 states, the TGA (Teach, Grow, Achieve) programs serve upwards of 70,000 kids a year across the nation. Taking his students from the introductory enrichment step all the way to debuting league play has resulted in Leland's pathway paving a patient and educational road toward growing the game. "It's an avenue for kids to transition from the after-school program into actual golf course experiences, through summer camps, recre- ational golf leagues, tournaments and special events," Leland says. Echoing proposed rule changes from golf 's governing bodies, Leland's league philosophy is to not intimidate new players with a myriad of regulations, instead graduating participants to enhanced Rules one step at time. "The fact that the R & A and USGA came out with their recent Rules change suggestions really sort of enforces what I'm trying to do," he says. "These kids that will be in our league, they're not used to being on a golf course and don't yet know all the nuances of the game. So kids can experience playing and get used to the routine and etiquette and not have to worry about every little, minute Rules detail." ROBERT KAUFMAN PROFILES

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