Inspired by the PGA Jr. League Golf Championship presented by National Car Rental, Sherri Pla—the Head PGA Professional for the City of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida—founded a PGA Jr. League program at Sandhill Crane Golf Course. This was one of seven pilot programs in the country in 2016 specifically designed to bring more youth of color into the game. With the support of Sigma Pi Phi, a national African-American Fraternity and partner of the PGA of America, the six-week program at Sandhill Crane attracted 84 youth, many of whom had never touched a golf club before. The key to engaging young players, according to Sherri, is ensuring they feel welcome and creating an atmosphere conducive to their age. She finds that planning activities with their age in mind, particularly a scramble format, is fun for all players. The participants benefit not only from Sherri’s knowledge of the game, but also from the core values she instills in them: teamwork, character, etiquette, perseverance and having fun. Sherri’s goal for the future of this program is to continue growing her league to 100+ participants annually—a goal that will be achieved through partnering with a local Boys and Girls Club, which helps provide programming for low-income families.
Chris Knobloch, PGA Director of Instruction for the Clubs of Peachtree City (Georgia) and a Quarter Century PGA Member, understands the importance of an early start in golf. He started playing at the age of 11 and hopes to instill a love of golf in the youth he works with. Chris works not only with the PGA Jr. League, but also engages young players through family-friendly events. He is especially proud of their 16-and-under league, which grew by nearly 60 percent in number of participants over the course of two seasons. This league allows former PGA Jr. League players and other high-school age boys and girls continue competing in golf. While the format of the game changes slightly due to their increased age and ability, the players continue practicing not only the skills they learned in PGA Jr. League, but the teamwork, dedication and passion they learned from their coaches. In 2018, Chris hopes to continue growing the program even more, hopefully assisted by scholarships that will attract new participants who would not otherwise be able to afford it. “We are teaching these boys and girls a sport for a lifetime… and impacting their lives beyond golf.”