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SPORT January 2017 44 www.sportseventsmagazine.com t Report SPORT Report fun round of golf. The courses themselves also benefit," Shields said. "Sunday afternoons are the slowest time of the weekend. Because we pay in advance and can guarantee three golfers per group, both the course's utilization and revenue are increased against the average." So far, so good for the Sunday Golf Tour. In just its first year, approximately 100 people have joined without much invest- ment in advertising beyond pro shops on tournament courses, said Shields. "Everyone who's played in one tourna- ment has then signed up for at least one more, which I take to mean we have an extremely high retention rate," Shields said. "Our season last year ran from May to August, with only five tournaments. In 2017, we'll look to double our tournaments and have the season run from February to August." Just as millennials value inclusiveness, so do many youth golf organizations, such as developmental programs such as PGA Junior League Golf. PROS STEPPING IN Targeting boys and girls ages 13 and under, golfers of all abilities come together to learn and play golf under the direction of a PGA or LGPA professional, according to Steve Tanner, the PGA of America's director of league golf. "In 2016, 45 percent of participants identified themselves as 'beginning golfers' and 35 percent as 'recreational golfers,' with players as young as seven years old, demonstrating the inclusive and developmental nature of the program," Tanner said. Since the program's incep- tion five years ago, the growth has been "exponential," said Tanner. "In 2016, a record-break- ing 36,000 kids participated on 2,900 teams nationwide, which represents a 300 percent increase in participation from just three years ago (9,000 participants on 740 teams in 2013)." He attributed that popularity to the recreational team con- cept that allows kids to wear numbered jerseys and play on teams with their friends. "Parents also appreciate the values and character skills that come with learning and playing golf, including sportsmanship, patience and honesty," Tanner said. "Ulti- mately, PGA Junior League Golf is a family activity. Not only can parents and grand- parents spectate PGA Junior League Golf matches or serve as a coach but they can play the game of golf together as a family." But growth isn't just limited to programs that target younger players. The next level of play, the American Junior Golf Associ- ation, is experiencing a boom among its membership of "avid" junior golfers, ages 12-18, according to COO Mark Oskarson. "2016 marked the ninth consecutive year where we were able to reach an all-time membership high. Ninety-six percent of our membership will go on to college and 84 percent will go to college with some form of athletic or academic aid," Oskar- son said. "Our success is simply because of the appeal of a college scholarship, our ability to serve as the best exposure vehicle for the college scholarship and the quality tournament experience we provide for our member players and member college coaches." To sum up the perspective of various sources, for the sport to fundamentally succeed at any level, a connection must be made, whether through family, friends or even to the values of the game. "What doesn't work on the adult level well is golf is seen as a detriment to fami- ly," said U.S. Kids Golf's Kim of the sport's time-consuming nature. "Golf is an excuse to spend more time with family." The benefit of establishing that con- nection between kids and golf extends well beyond U.S. Kids Golf's age limit on players, according to Kim, and it's a perspective that offers hope for the future of the sport. "You can play golf for the rest of your life," he said. "Golf is really a game for a lifetime." n According to the World Golf Foundation, the number of youth golfers — those ages 6-17 — has increased by 20 percent since 2010.