Since 2019, PGA Jr. League has recognized outstanding PGA Jr. League Coaches with the #GameChanger Awards after each season! The #GameChanger Awards celebrate programs that create more opportunities for more kids to play more golf. Traditionally, they have recognized PGA Coaches with the 25 largest programs across the country and the largest program in each PGA Section.
In 2022, the Nebraska Section PGA was represented by two of the 25 largest programs in the country. Winning the #GameChanger Award for the second straight season, Karrie Van Ravenswaay, PGA and The Ridge Golf Club had 236 PGA Jr. League registrants. That number ranked 8th across the country.
When The Ridge Golf Club created their PGA Jr. League program in 2014, they had just one 13 & Under team with 8 juniors. Head Golf Professional Karrie Van Ravenswaay, PGA believes the growth and success they’ve seen at their club directly correlates to their work in schools.
“We’ve seen a dramatic growth just in the past two years and I believe that directly relates to the work we’ve done to introduce and teach the game of golf in our surrounding schools. The kids get excited and it helps us as PGA Professionals to build a relationship with them,” said Van Ravenswaay.
Along with being one of the largest, The Ridge Golf Club’s teams have been among the most competitive. This season, their 17 & Under PGA Jr. League team competed at the 2022 Nebraska PGA Jr. League Section Championship which was held next to the Korn Ferry Tour’s Pinnacle Bank Championship. They went on to win their division to advance to the PGA Jr. League Regional Qualifier in Wisconsin.
Van Ravenswaay remains motivated and wants to see The Ridge Golf Club continue to grow their PGA Jr. League program, but she mentioned the #GameChanger recognition is a “testament to our mission and goals.”
“Being recognized as a #GameChanger facility means a great deal to us (The Ridge GC). This award represents the joy we were able to bring to over 200 kids in the way of learning to love the game of golf,” Van Ravenswaay said.
Led by Jeff Porter, PGA and Victoria Grasso, LPGA, the First Tee of Omaha had 193 PGA Jr. League registrants in 2022 which ranked 16th in the country. In addition to their own programming, the First Tee of Omaha expanded PGA Jr. League to like-minded organizations such as Caritas Cottage, Kroc Center, Nelson Mandela, Jesuit Academy, Boys/Girls Club, Girls Inc, Partnership 4 kids and Kids Cad.
“Winning this award and being recognized on the national level reaffirms our commitment to our mission to impact the lives of young people through the game of golf. A mission that was created by our founder the late Steve Hogan, PGA,” said Porter.
Similar to PGA Jr. League, The First Tee of Omaha’s motto is “Building Game Changers” and that’s exactly what they are doing through the program. Not only are they bringing in a large number of kids to their PGA Jr. League programs, but the young participants are walking away with so much more. The participants, some of whom may never see a golf course without the program, are developing a new love for the game of golf.
“This is all so overwhelming and heartwarming for us at The First Tee of Omaha. It’s nice to know we are playing a role in growing the game of golf especially to a demographic that might not get the opportunity without us,” said Porter.
The Ridge Golf Club and The First Tee of Omaha’s PGA Jr. League programs represent everything in what they were designed to be. The Professional staffs at each facility are using PGA Jr. League as a vehicle to grow the game of golf in a way that is inspiring other PGA Professionals across the country.
As we celebrate the incredible work done at both of these Nebraska Section PGA facilities, we look ahead to the 2023 PGA Jr. League season which opens in the coming days. On Wednesday, February 1st, PGA Coach and player registration will open. For more info, click HERE.