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One Last Thank You

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By Alex Wood, AJGA Communications

This morning started just like every other Friday morning this summer. I woke up early, double checked to make sure I packed everything in my suitcase, and headed out to load up the Yukon. I drove to the course and helped where I could as we hitched up the trailer. The morning shift of drivers got settled into the front seats while the rest of us got ready to go back to bed in the back. But this time instead of starting our first three hour shift, we drove to the Kansas City airport.  I know I’ve written a lot about how I couldn’t believe it was almost time to head home, but now that the day is finally here I’m even more in disbelief. As I was standing on the curb of the departure lane, hugging my teammates goodbye one last time, it almost felt like I was just saying goodbye for the weekend – like I was just going to miss the start of their next tournament. I don’t really know when it will hit me that I’ve said goodbye for a while. That come Sunday I won’t have a qualifier to prepare for, that Monday won’t be registration day, that life is about to be back to what I used to call normal. So figured I’d delay my sadness a little longer and write one last blog on the summer.

If you know me well, you know that I love notes more than anything; since I obviously can’t write a thank you note to every person that made this summer so special, this will have to do. So thank you:

Every host family I had this summer
Thank you for opening up your home to a complete stranger for a week. Thank you for putting up with our weird hours, for going out of your way to make me feel at home (like my host family in KC that made me sweet tea!), and for becoming a family on the road. Hotel living can get boring so to have a place to walk into at the end of a long day and see someone waiting on you means so much. Thank you for letting me into your family and for making sure that my week in your hometown was a great one. I wrote earlier this summer about how nice it was to have gained an extra family in my team, but I’ve gained one in all of you as well.

The courses/course staffs that treated us so well
Thank you for giving us your course for the week. Thank you for staging our carts, lending us proximities, feeding us, and dealing with an influx of players for a week straight. Thank for giving me the opportunity to see so many beautiful places and learn even more about the game. (And a special shout out to Rush Creek in Minnesota for being the most hospitable staff we came in contact with this summer).

The juniors
I know this one probably sounds silly, but thank you for choosing to play the AJGA. Without you, I would have literally been out of a job. But more than that, thank you for being some of the most polite and friendly kids I’ve ever met. Thanks for putting up with my questions at the staters tent about what you would buy if you won the lottery or what your walk up song would be (especially those who took the questions very seriously), and for calling me out when I didn’t understand pop culture references. Thank you to every player who took the time to shake my hand in the scoring tent or thank me off of the course for the work that our team does. Thank you to every junior who willingly chatted with me and made me feel a little cooler than I actually am. Thank you for giving me a reason to start following a lot of college golf teams. And thank you for giving me the chance to be able to say “I knew them in junior golf!” when you all go make big names for yourselves.

Their parents
Thank you for letting your kids do what they love and for letting them do it with an incredible organization. The hours and dollars you spend on tournaments and travel is almost incomprehensible to me, but thank you. Thank you for loving your kid enough to walk 36 holes a tournament. Thank you to each parent who helped spot/ball search when I couldn’t get to the group right away. Thanks for reminding me that my job was making a difference, especially on the days where I couldn’t feel it.

Each volunteer that I met (and those I didn’t)
Thank you for taking time out of your life to come time/spot/shuttle/rover for us. I know we tell you when we check you in, but we really couldn’t do it without you.  Thank you for some of the most interesting conversations of the summer and for going out of your way to help us and make us feel great (like the volunteer in Michigan who sent my mom brownies because she had to deal with me being gone for so long).

The TDs/TAs/CAs/AJGA staff I worked with this summer
Thank you for choosing to do this with your time. Thank you for letting us play a part in putting on these tournaments. Thank you for teaching us how to improve and continually get better. Thank you for every kind word you’ve passed along – they served as fuel to get through the tough days. Thank you for answering our “awkward first date” question each week and for opening up and becoming one of team three for the week. Thank you for all of the memories and stories I’m going back to Atlanta with.

Team 3
Thank you for being the kind of people that I can spend literally every day with for three months without going crazy. Thank you for teaching me what it means to truly work in a team and for constantly pushing me to be a better person. Thanks for being down to venture out in each town we went – whether that meant a baseball game or a really good restaurant. Thank you for never making me drive the truck and trailer and for putting up with my weird sleeping positions in the Yukon. Thanks for life talks and fun drives and nights that I really will never forget. Thank you for becoming family and for being friends that I know I’ll have around for years and years to come.

The AJGA
Wow. What an organization. Thank you to each and every person that has contributed to making the AJGA what it is today. Thank you for creating a culture that pushes workers to succeed and get better. Thank you for giving us the freedom to take ownership in what we put out. Thank you for treating your employees so well and for creating a corporate culture that really focuses on its employees. Thank you for giving me this opportunity and for helping me find my passion. I can’t wait to wear my AJGA letters proudly back in Atlanta.

 

To learn more about the AJGA Internship program click here.

A Summer Unlike Any Other

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By Jackie Clark (@AJGAMedia), AJGA Communications

5:30 a.m. wake up calls and 70-hour work weeks sound intimidating and hard right? But what if I told you it was all worth it, because for me it has been.

Being an intern can be hectic.  As a member of a three-person communications team, we make videos, enter scores, write stories, take photos and conduct interviews, plus any other tasks that we must accomplish to ensure our tournaments run smoothly. This can include setting up, breaking down and rules officiating. We want to ensure that every tournament is run to perfection so that we can give every junior and their family a great AJGA experience.

Being able to talk with players’ parents is truly inspiring. Hearing the goals of their Team 4 Blogchildren to play golf in college makes everything we do worth it.

Although it may seem that the interns just help run the tournaments, we are helping young golfers achieve their dreams and preparing them for the future.

Early mornings and late nights are worth it when a mother comes up to you and says what a great job you are doing and how greatly you impact their son or daughter.

At our first tournament, my team was fortunate enough to have Gary Woodland, a PGA Gary Woodland SelfieTOUR player, present.  We interviewed Woodland and watched him give a clinic to the juniors. Seeing a professional interact with the players that look up to him and give them advice was something that I’ve never experienced before. After the players spoke with Woodland, they were ecstatic.  I’m excited to experience this again when my team and I go to future event that Jordan Spieth will attend.

One of the best parts of the internship is how close you get with your teammates. We have
a team of nine, and within the last few weeks, they have become some of my best friends. We always have fun. Whether it is on the golf course or going out to eat on our off time, there is never a dull moment.

All-in-all, the last three weeks that I have been an intern for the AJGA have been great.  I look
forward to all the experiences I have this summer and the memories that will stay with me for years to come.IMG_0995

A Tradition of Excellence

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RolexGirls16-ClubHouse

By: Tim Langer, AJGA Communications

One of the biggest perks of the AJGA Internship is the opportunity to travel. To be honest, I had my fingers crossed to end up with the team on the west coast. So when I found out I would be in the northeast, especially being from Connecticut, my reaction could be described as cautious enthusiasm. The stops were all places I had never been, but I assumed that they would be pretty similar to what I knew from growing up fairly close.

Then week two rolled around and we landed in Rochester, New York, for the Rolex Girls Junior Championship at The Country Club of Rochester. The Country Club of Rochester is hosting the event for the second time in three years, which is somewhat unusual as the tournament typically moves around pretty often. However, when you look at the history of the course, it is only fitting that one of the most prestigious clubs in the country will host the 25th edition of one of the most prestigious tournaments on the AJGA schedule.

The Country Club of Rochester stakes its claim as one of the oldest golf clubs in America, and considering it was founded in 1895, I’ll take their word for it. It started as a nine-hole course and slowly expanded into the 18-hole course of today thanks to course architects such as Robert Trent Jones, and Arthur Hills. Even though the course was restored in 2004, the British hole names, Waterloo, Slopes, and Wilbur’s Elbow, remained as a reminder of the rich history of the course. A history that includes hosting the first ever USGA conducted U.S. Women’s Open Championship in 1953, the 1962 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, and a return visit from the U.S. Women’s Open Championship 20 years after the inaugural event.

The course is a perfect tie to the rich history of the Rolex Girls Junior Championship. The event has seen some of the best female golfers in the world etch their names on the perpetual trophy. Past champions include Inbee Park, the 2013 Rolex Player of the Year, and the youngest to ever win a U.S. Women’s Open Championship, Paula Creamer, who took home the U.S. Women’s Open Championship title in 2010, and two-time champion Ariya Jutanugarn, who recently won three straight events on the LPGA Tour.

Tuesday, 72 members of golf’s next generation will tee off on Haig’s House in hopes of continuing the tradition of excellence at the Rolex Girls Junior Championship and The Country Club of Rochester.

Meet our volunteers

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By Shannon Dudzinski (@AJGAMedia), AJGA Communications

Our tournaments would not be possible without the help from dedicated volunteers. We appreciate their time commitment and enjoy having them at every tournament. Nearly 20 volunteers spent Memorial Day weekend assisting with the AJGA Preview at Château Élan presented by Halski Systems. This Memorial weekend, we got the opportunity to get to know our volunteers a little better.

Harlan Sutandi- Volunteer, ChateauHarlan Sutandi

Years of service: “Two. I volunteered three years ago in 2013.”

Do you play golf? Yes

Have you played the Château Course at Château Élan Golf Club?  If so what’s your favorite hole? “I have played here several times. This is a difficult course, the tee shot on No. 14 is difficult.”

 
What do you look forward to most about these AJGA tournaments? “I love to watch the kids play golf and I wish I could play as well as they do.”

 

Ed Smith, Volunteer, ChateauEd Smith

Years of service: “At least four years ever since my wife [Kellie Smith] started volunteering.”

Do you play golf? “Yeah, I try to. I didn’t start playing until I was 35.”

Have you played the Château Course at Château Élan Golf Club?  If so what’s your favorite hole? “I have played out here. I would say that No. 2 is my favorite hole.”

 
What do you look forward to most about these AJGA tournaments? “I enjoy just seeing the young kids playing and the interns working so it is really nice.”

 

Jerry Abbott, Volunteer, ChateauJerry Abbott

Years of service: “This will be my fourth year.”

Do you play golf? “Yes.”

Have you played the Château Course at Château Élan Golf Club?  If so what’s your favorite hole? “No. 14 is a good hole and is pretty tough.”

 
What do you look forward to most about these AJGA tournaments? “Just watching these youngsters play, glad to see them out here playing instead of sitting around with a computer or doing nothing.”

 

Ned Shanmugham- Volunteer- ChateauNed Shanmugham

Years of service: “I am retired so I just come out here. I have been doing it for the last four years, usually a timing station.”

Do you play golf? “Yes.”

What do you look forward to most about these AJGA tournaments? “I love watching these kids. They are so talented; I wish I could play as well.”

 

 

Kaitlan Ball, Volunteer, ChateauKaitlyn Ball

Years of service: “This is my first time volunteering for this specific event, I was an intern last year and loved the experience. I wanted to come back to volunteer.”

Do you play golf? “No I don’t play, but I will definitely pick it up in the future.”

Have you played the Château Course at Château Élan Golf Club?  If so what’s your favorite hole? “I haven’t played. I do like the golf course design here though.”

 
What do you look forward to most about these AJGA tournaments? “I love volunteering for the AJGA because I think it is an incredible organization that really helps junior golfers get to the next level and it is just a fun time.”

First Impressions: Interns join players in debut at Château Élan

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By Preston Smith (@AJGAMedia), Communications Assistant

Driving into the Château Élan Golf Club for the first time can be a daunting experience for a first-time AJGA player. The Château Course’s par-5 15th hole parallels the road up to the clubhouse, while the AJGA’s National Headquarters sits just behind the teeing grounds.

But this week’s tournament is a little different. The AJGA Preview at Château ÉlanIMG_6923 presented by Halski Systems will not only provide a new experience for junior golfers, the tournament also culminates a week’s worth of training for the AJGA’s newest interns.

Fifty-nine interns from 24 states, 54 colleges and varying golf backgrounds joined the
AJGA family on May 24. Six days in and the new class of interns are already grasping the AJGA’s culture and golf tournament basics.

“What’s been great about this week already is seeing the energy that the kids have,” said Ricky Palermo, a member of Team 6 and a recent graduate of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. “The vibe around the whole golf course has really been exciting.”
Operations interns have focused a lot of the week on the Pace of Play sponsored by Leupold, rulings and course setup. Communications interns concentrated on multimedia storytelling, social media and media relations. But as much as procedure is emphasized, the culture of excellence is stressed even higher.

“I’ve realized that so much with this internship IMG_3811is having a good attitude and at the end of the day, we’re here for golf, but more than that, we’re here for our junior golfers,” said Alex Wood, a member of Team 3 and a rising senior at Georgia Tech.

Golf experience is not a must for the AJGA internship. In fact, experiences range from interns never having picked up a club to seven former AJGA alumni and 13 college golfers returning for the summer.

“I’m definitely familiar with a lot of the things the AJGA does after playing in some tournaments in 2013,” said Nick Cantlay, a member of Team 4 and a golfer at California State University – Long Beach. “I remember the thank you notes from my time as a player, and of course a lot of the rulings as well. But it is very different as a player versus a rules official. We went out to do rulings with [Vice President of Tournament Operations] Andrew Greenfield, and it is definitely a whole other thing to do it from an official’s perspective. You have to be very precise.”

Training week involves a lot of hours and even more information. Conquering the Intern, Interview (3)technicalities is what allows intern teams to launch their summer with a bond created through teamwork and the tools necessary to run 70 summer tournaments.

“I feel like our team has gotten so close already just by what we’ve been through at training and hanging out outside of it,” said Solomon Hughes, a member of Team 3 and a rising senior at the University of Cincinnati. “We’re prepared for the summer and ready to prove it.”

If you are interested in launching your career in the sports industry, click here to learn more about our internship program.

 

Meet the new AJGA staff

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By Tim Jackman (@AJGAJackman), AJGA Communications

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At the beginning of the year, a new group of full-time employees joined the AJGA. We are very excited to have this talented group from around the country join our staff. As you are at tournaments this year be on the lookout for these nine new faces and welcome them to the AJGA family!


Kelsie Berke

Position: Communications Coordinator
Intern Class: 2015, Communications
Education: University of Iowa
Sports claim to fame: I was in the newspaper for meeting Zach Johnson last summer right after he won the British Open. (And he said Go Hawkeyes, we are now bffs)
Fun Fact: I took piano lessons for 12 years. I also like to dip my grilled cheese in chocolate milk. (actually really good)
Favorite thing about AJGA: Definitely the people I get to work with and the places I get to travel to.
Anything else interesting: I’m from Iowa and I have never lived on a farm. Shocking, I know.

Houston Denney
Position: Tournament Coordinator
Intern Class: Spring / Summer 2015, Operations
Education: The University of Tennessee
Sports claim to fame: I made an albatross on a Par 5.
Fun Fact: My sister and I share a birthday, but we are 11 years apart.
Favorite thing about AJGA: The family-like atmosphere.

Emily Martz
Position: Tournament Coordinator
Intern Class: Summer 2014, Summer Tournament Assistant 2015, Operations
Education: Graceland University
Sports claim to fame: I saw Mark McGwire hit his 500th home run at Busch Stadium and I watched Pat Summit coach her last basketball game in 2012.
Fun Fact: I played golf all four years of college and I was in charge of intramural sports my senior year of college.
Favorite thing about the AJGA: Being able to see so many juniors go to college for a sport they love and all of those golfers who are now giving back to our program.

Johnny Garstka
Position: Tournament Coordinator
Intern Class: Summer 2014, Summer Tournament Assistant 2015, Operations
Education: Clemson University, Class of 2015
Sports claim to fame: I have attended THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass twice.
Fun Fact: Skydiving is the most exhilarating thing I have ever done! If you have not had a chance to try it for yourself, and you are up for a thrill, I highly recommend it!
Favorite thing about AJGA: My favorite thing about the AJGA is definitely the people. From my co-workers, to the players and parents that we serve on a daily basis, I have met so many incredible people the past two summers and I am looking forward to meeting many more in 2016.
Anything else interesting: I am originally from Springfield, VA, just outside of Washington, D.C. and I am the oldest of four siblings. I love sports, spending time outside hiking and skiing, and traveling to new places.

Nathan Nottrott
Position: Tournament Coordinator
Intern Class: Summer 2015, Operations
Education: McKendree University
Fun Fact: Found my first gray hair at age 16
Favorite thing about AJGA: My favorite thing about the AJGA is getting to work in a family atmosphere with such an amazing group of people and the ability to interact with the best junior golfers in the country.

Brett Polachek
Position: Tournament Coordinator
Intern Class: Summer 2014 (Communications), Fall 2014 (Communications in-house), Summer 2015 (Operations)
Education: University of Georgia
Sports claim to fame: Played collegiate baseball at South Georgia College
Fun Fact: Called the Dawgs at the Georgia/Florida game in Jacksonville, Florida.
Favorite thing about AJGA: How united the entire company is. I’ve worked in two completely different roles over the last two years and was treated the same throughout. The role of Tournament Coordinator was an easy pick.

Bobby Puchner
Position: Tournament Coordinator
Intern Class: Summer 2015, Operations
Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Claim to fame: Caddied for AJGA Alum Patrick Rodgers in the 2010 Western Junior Championship, which he won.
Fun Fact: I have dual citizenship with the U.K.
Favorite thing about the AJGA: My co-workers and the privilege to work with the best junior golfers in the world.

Carly Ragains
Position: Tournament Coordinator
Intern Class: Summer 2015, Operations
Education: Kansas State University
Sports claim to fame: 2011 AJGA alumni
Fun Fact: I was a ballerina for 11 years before I decided to become a full time golfer.
Favorite thing about AJGA: Being around junior golf and building relationships along the way.
Anything else interesting: I am deathly afraid of fish.

Kyle Rickert
Position: Tournament Coordinator
Intern Class: Summer 2014, Summer 2015 Tournament Assistant, Operations
Education: Indiana University
Sports Claim to fame: Three-time Big Ten Water Polo MVP
Fun Fact: I have played water polo for the last 16 years.
Favorite thing about AJGA: The relationships formed in this organization make it like a family.

My Journey to an AJGA Invitational: Mason Nome

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By Mason Nome, AJGA Member

Doug Ghim never misses a shot.

At least that was what I was thinking when I watched him play in the last group on the final day of the 2014 CB&I / Simplify Boys Championship at Carlton Woods with Andy Zhang and Carl Yuan.

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Nome watching Ghim and Zhang at the 2014 CB&I / Simplify Boys Championship at Carlton Woods

I was in the gallery that day, and watched him play flawless golf, making consecutive birdies on Nos. 2-4 and 6-8 to get to six-under-par through eight holes. Watching Ghim was like watching a robot play golf, and he played nearly perfect golf the rest of the round, not making a single bogey in the entire tournament until the 54th and final hole.  He would break Jordan Spieth’s tournament record by shooting 12-under-par for three rounds.

At the time I had just turned 13 and was entering my second year of playing AJGA events. Although I knew Invitationals were different than the Junior All-Stars I had played up to that point, the huge difference was becoming very clear. I was hoping to pick up a few PBE Stars in AJGA events, and these guys were breaking Jordan Spieth’s records, and bombing 300 yard drives! I weighed only about 80 pounds at the time. Ghim dominated that day and while I hoped to be able to play in some Invitationals someday before my AJGA days were finished, that level seemed a long, long ways away.

Two more AJGA seasons passed by, where I was lucky to have had some success. My game developed as time went on, and I grew bigger and stronger. I had verbally committed in the fall of 2014 to follow Doug Ghim and Jordan Spieth and play golf at The University of Texas in 2019.

IMG_0563This year, I was fortunate to be in the field for the 2016 CB&I / Simplify Boys Championship at Carlton Woods.  I had played in three Junior All-Star Invitationals already and had fun, but this tournament would be my first “real” Invitational.  I love Carlton Woods and was happy to be able to sleep in my own bed for once during a tournament since the course is only about 45 minutes from our house in Houston.

I arrived for the Thursday unofficial practice round and was paired with my friend Noah Goodwin, a member of The First Tee of Greater Houston and a Carlton Woods member named Jerry Toenges.  Amazingly, Mr. Toenges made a hole-in-one on Hole No. 14 during our round. I viewed witnessing the hole-in-one as a positive sign of good things to come during the tournament.

I started quickly in Saturday’s first round, making birdies on two of my first three holes and four birdies on the front nine. I ended up making five birdies on the day, and shot a 3-under-par 69 after hitting 15 greens.  After the first round, I was in fourth place, only one shot behind my friends Pierceson Coody and Cooper Dossey and also Andy Zhang who I had followed while watching Doug Ghim shoot that record score only two years prior.

I was fairly successfully on the front nine of the second round and found myself tied for the lead with Andy Zhang at the halfway point of the tournament after three birdies on the front nine.  It was a nice feeling being tied with Andy at the halfway point after watching him as a spectator in the last group only two years earlier! Like many others, I had some trouble with the wind on the back nine and ended up shooting a 1-over-par 73, which put me in seventh place going into the final round.

For the final round, my group was announced on the first tee by World Golf Hall of Fame member and golfing legend, Carol Mann. Again, I started quickly, making birdies on three of my first six holes and found myself in the top 5 going into the back nine. Unfortunately, I hit a couple of loose shots in the high winds, made three-straight bogeys, and ended up finishing the tournament in ninth place, by shooting even par for the tournament. Regardless, I was very fortunate and happy to have ended up with a Top 10 in my first Invitational.

top 10 finishers and scoreboard (3)The tournament was amazing in every way, and it is easy to see why it has won so many awards from the AJGA. CB&I and Simplify, Mr. and Mrs. Dernick, the Tournament Committee and Mr. Alexander and his team at Carlton Woods treated all the players and their families so well. Mr. Freyman and the AJGA staff made the event extremely special as well. The fact that the event honors our soldiers and wounded warriors made it even better. Without them, I could not play the game I love, and I am very thankful for their sacrifice.

Hopefully I will see you again next year at Carlton Woods!