CGA's Cox Devoted to Helping Juniors
Everyone in golf talks about the necessity of getting more young people involved in the game.
They say that "the kids are the future."
Jason Cox is doing more than just talking. He's acting. As director of junior golf for the Carolinas Golf Association, Cox spends every day of his life working to give youngsters opportunities to play the game.
"My main job is to organize and advertise our junior championships and to oversee the Tarheel Youth Golf Association (TYGA)," he said during a recent interview in his West End office. "I'm involved in everything from our one-day events to the rankings of the players."
This is a huge task, with more than 2,500 junior golfers ranging in age from 8 to 18 in the data base and about 4,000 total in North and South Carolina.
Finding kids who want to play golf is not the problem. But coming up with courses for them to play is difficult most of the time.
"If parents aren't members of a club, it's often tough to get the kids on a course," Cox said. "With the TYGA, we've established a network of sponsor clubs that offer discounted rates to juniors. These rates range from $20 to free after 2 p.m. Also, some clubs are offering discounted junior memberships."
So there are options out there. It's finding them that might be tough, and that's where Cox and the CGA are making inroads.
"We've created a new Web site, 'Carolinas Junior Golf,' that is a one-stop shop," Cox said. "It's got a lot of stuff on it for girls and boys as well as college recruiting information. All the junior tours have links and if the kids are looking for tournaments to play, it's a good place to go. There's a page that lists junior instruction and how much it costs. There's a list of junior academies and camps at various universities such as Notre Dame and Kentucky, as well as schools in the Carolinas."
Still, there are a large number of would-be junior golfers who aren't being reached.
"The information is out there, it's just not getting to folks," Cox said, admitting that it's sometimes frustrating. "I guess it's partially my fault. We need to be more in touch with high schools and golf club professionals. We have to get the story out there as to what we do for junior golf, and we're trying. We've started a college night and brought coaches in to meet with interested people. We held one at Pinewild Country Club, and more than 200 people showed up for a question-and-answer session. It's proved so popular that we're adding sites in Charlotte and Columbia, S.C., next year."
Cox, who worked as a club professional for 10 years at Old North State, Wildwood Greens in Raleigh and Hidden Creek in Virginia, has been with the CGA for four years.
He has earned a reputation as a dedicated worker who keeps striving to overcome the obstacles. And he's grateful for the emergence of The First Tee programs that make the game available to any kid desiring to participate regardless of club affiliation or income level.
"We support a lot of First Tee programs in the Carolinas," he said, "by finding clubs that help get kids on courses. The First Tee teaches values, but where do the kids play? We're lucky here in the Sandhills to have The Bluff, which allows the kids access. But a lot of chapters have trouble finding a place.
"We need more people in golf like Stuart Taylor at Whispering Woods Golf Club, but we know that some guys who'd like to help can't because their hands are tied when it comes to giving access to the courses."
Cox also feels that the approach to the game by some youngsters is wrong.
"When I was growing up, I was lucky that we had 10 or 12 guys at my club who played in junior tournaments. We were pretty good. But we're seeing a lot of people now that aren't joining clubs because of the cost and the time involved. They don't feel they can go out and spend five hours on a golf course. Also, there are so many municipal and public courses where they can play a lot cheaper than being a dues-paying member at a club.
"South Carolina has had a great junior program for years now, and they have five or six players on the PGA Tour. They're so strong that Clemson was able to have an all-South Carolina team.
"Kids need to learn more about the game than just going out and trying to hit 250-yard drives. They're getting plenty of instruction on how to hit the ball, but not on how to get it in the hole. That's what you hear form the college coaches short game, short game. And to develop that, you have to have access to a course and the facilities.
"We'd like to see every city or county have a junior golf course. Will it happen? No. But I'd love to see junior golf nights established where everyone could meet at a club and play nine holes.
"The South Carolina Golf Association started a golf Little League. They play nine holes each evening over six weeks to decide the championship.
"We've started a middle school championship that involves 90 players, and it's become one of our biggest events. Little League golf would be a great thing if we could get it up and running.
"Junior golf in the Carolinas has a very rich tradition, but it can get bigger and better if we introduce it to more players, not just to teach them to play professionally, but for the rest of their lives. If they play football or baseball, when they leave high school it's probably the last time they'll play. But they can play golf for as long as they can get up.
"We just want everyone with youngsters to know that if you want to get involved with golf, you don't have to be a member of a club. Our sponsorship program can help you find a course."
For more information, call Cox at 673-1000 or visit the TYGA Web site.
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