Written by Greg Johnson
BIG RAPIDS – The successful Youth on Course program was established in 2017 in Michigan through the Golf Association of Michigan Foundation and some of the young golfers who took advantage of $5 golf rounds on participating courses also discovered a career path.
Recently, Mark Wilson, an instructor at the PGA Professional Golf Management program at Ferris State University, asked a group of students to raise their hands if they had participated in Youth on Course. He expected a few, but about a dozen students raised their hands.
“It’s clear Youth on Course is introducing people to golf beyond just playing the game,” Wilson said. “It has helped some of them decide to attend Ferris and become PGA golf professionals.”
Brendan Baidel of Ann Arbor, a Ferris PGM student, said YOC helped him improve the golf skills he would need as a PGA professional.
“As a youth golfer who was starting to become more competitive in high school years, YOC provided an opportunity to play multiple courses at a low cost, therefore giving me more practice opportunities and more opportunities to play courses I had not played before,” he said.
Elaina DeRose of DeWitt said YOC impacted her in multiple significant ways.
“My best memories come from my friends and I going to a YOC facility and playing a round and getting better while finding true love in the game,” she said. “In addition, watching my family be so supportive and proud of my progress in golf is priceless.”
Ryan Batcheller of Huntington Woods said he started playing golf solely because of YOC.
“My parents weren’t going to spend hundreds of dollars for me to play courses,” he said. “I got to play more golf for less money.”
Kamryn Shannon of Jackson said YOC helped her grow as a golfer who could consider the game for a career path.
“It allowed me to become more confident with my golf game,” she said. “I was able to improve my game because I was getting to practice at so many different courses for a great price.”
The GAM Foundation is taking the relationship between Youth on Course and the Ferris State PGA PGM program to the next level by sponsoring an educational scholarship for PGM students attending Ferris. Past participation in Youth on Course Michigan or the GAM will be considered in the selection process with the hope that the scholarship recipient will offer YOC opportunities at their future golf facility.
Cathy Kalahar, vice-president of the GAM Foundation, has spearheaded the scholarship establishment effort. The GAM Foundation will be making annual contributions from its general fund to the scholarship endowment that will be managed by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Should others wish to make a direct contribution, checks can be made out to Community Foundation For Southeast Michigan or CFSEM with GAM Foundation written in the memo line.
The PGA Golf Management program at Ferris was the first of its kind sanctioned by the PGA of America in 1975. It has the largest network of successful graduates and alumni in the golf industry and prepares students to become golf professionals, directors of golf, teaching professionals, or enter into other golf related careers. The program, which has a 100 percent employment rate upon graduation, has produced over 2,000 graduates and 1,100 are currently active PGA members. Golfers can learn more at ferris.edu/pgm.
Learn more about the GAM Foundation and Youth on Course in Michigan at GAM.org