In the last year United States teams have won the Ryder, President’s and Solheim Cups, but the last decade or more has seen international players close the gap and even surpass the American players in many respects. Why has our record in the Ryder Cup over the past 20 years been so poor? Why is the top of the LPGA so full of international players and no American woman has been Player of the Year since 1994? Why are American college golf teams increasingly so populated with international recruits?
The answer, in my opinion, is that unlike many other countries we do not encourage our junior golfers to strive for excellence.
Every golf course across the country has a junior program. However, the vast majority of those programs are geared towards bringing new players into the game and very few are about recognizing and developing talent. Certainly, one goal of junior golf should be to introduce the kids to the game and to have fun, but the goal can also be more far reaching than that.
At the OB Sports Golf Academy we believe that children respond when you set the bar of expectation higher for them. Their natural instinct to achieve kicks in and they progress more quickly. Every day that they practice they are given goals that mix fun with accomplishment and they leave feeling better about themselves that they have achieved that day’s goal.
Participation in golf has remained flat over the last two decades. The game loses as many players each year as it gains. People constantly ask questions about how to keep people in the game. The LPGA is downsizing and losing events because it cannot generate interest from fans in the United States. College scholarships are being used on international players because coaches want to win and those are the players that can do it for them.
The way to reverse these trends is through junior golf, but not in the manner in which we have always done it. We as golf professionals and instructors must encourage these junior golfers to strive for excellence. We must show them that setting and accomplishing goals for their game will bring not only better scores but more personal satisfaction and more fun. A golfer who does not get any better will not want to continue to go to the course.
Define excellence as putting forth maximum effort. Ask your students not to just try golf but to commit to golf. As professionals, develop programs that encourage accomplishment and recognize talent. Then, do as other countries do and nurture that talent. Give it what it needs to grow. This is the missing link in our development of golfers.