Junior golf has gained significant popularity in the United States, captivating young golfers and providing them with a competitive platform. It serves as a nurturing ground for budding talents to hone their skills, compete at various levels, and even secure scholarships for college. Over the years, participation in junior golf has witnessed a remarkable surge. According to the National Golf Foundation’s report, in 2022, approximately 3.4 million junior golfers engaged in golf-related activities across the United States.
On July 11, 2023, 30 talented junior golfers from the Texarkana region will seize the opportunity to elevate their game. Texarkana Country Club and Northridge Country Club will once again host the Texarkana Children Charities Open, part of the All-Pro Tour (APT) and Women’s All-Pro Tour (WAPT). As a renowned professional golf tournament series spanning the mid-south United States, the APT raises funds for local charities and paves the way for aspiring young professionals to pursue their dreams of making it to the illustrious PGA Tour. Remarkably, several prominent PGA Tour players, including the world’s number one-ranked golfer Scottie Scheffler, helped launch their careers on the APT. Traditionally, professional golf tournaments commence with a Pro-Am event on Mondays, granting generous donors and sponsors the unique experience of playing alongside professional golfers and briefly stepping into their shoes. This year, The Farmers Bank & Trust Junior Pro-Am has been introduced, offering talented local kids who earned invitations through their skills the chance to embrace the same opportunity.
The Junior Pro-Am was conceived through the partnership of Mark Van Herpen, Chairman of the Texarkana Children Charities Open, and Fred Meisenheimer, Director of Red River Junior Golf. Van Herpen expressed his enthusiasm for expanding the tournament’s outreach within the community, stating, “We are always looking for new opportunities to grow our tournament and expand the reach to more people in the community. This new Junior Pro-Am will allow us to reach another segment of the community that otherwise may not know about the tournament or the organizations it benefits.” Meisenheimer is responsible for the logistics of the tournament. Explaining his motivation, Meisenheimer stated, “Having two boys deeply passionate about golf, I found myself shuttling them to Dallas and Little Rock for tournaments. I wanted to create a unique experience for my boys and other kids who play here in Texarkana.”
Eagerly anticipating the event, eight-year-old Micah Glick shared his excitement, “I can’t wait to see the skills of a professional golfer and learn from them.” Ten-year-old Owen Peek added, “Meeting a pro golfer who might one day play on TV is exciting!” Eight-year-old Buck Hawkins commented, “I want to see and learn from a pro. I want to improve and be a pro. I want to travel all over the world!”
Achieving excellence in junior golf demands dedication, hard work, and an unwavering love for the game. Eleven-year-old Gabi Nevels, who plays at Texarkana Golf Ranch, shared her rigorous practice routine, saying, “I practice a lot. I play 18 holes three days a week and at least nine holes another day.” It can be challenging, but with the right mindset, training, and support, junior golfers can make strides and accomplish their goals.
Excelling in junior golf, however, has its challenges. Golf is a multifaceted sport requiring technical proficiency in various aspects, including the full swing, short game, putting, course management, and mental fortitude. Junior golfers must dedicate ample time and effort to practice and refine these skills to thrive as competitive golfers. Lane Witten, a nine-year-old golfer, shared, “I practice four days a week, attend weekly lessons, and hit balls into a net at home.”
To succeed, junior golfers must cultivate resilience, focus, and the ability to perform under pressure. Golf also requires a substantial time commitment, extending beyond the duration of the five-hour rounds. Aspiring golfers must strike a delicate balance between school, training, and a tournament schedule that often involves travel. Twelve-year-old Sophia Gavriel offered insight into her schedule, stating, “I have lessons in Dallas twice a month, and I practice every afternoon I can in Texarkana.” Gavriel, who also competes in tennis and basketball at a high level, understands the challenges of managing multiple commitments.
Golf is not a cost-effective sport. Expenses related to equipment, lessons, travel, and tournament registrations can quickly accumulate. As players progress and refine their skills, these costs increase with new equipment, advanced lessons, and participation in larger tournaments.
To qualify for the Junior Pro-Am, golfers had to compete in the Farmers Bank & Trust Junior Golf Tour held this past spring. This series consisted of five tournaments hosted at various local golf courses in Texarkana. The tournament series was put on by Red River Junior Golf, which was started in early 2022 for the purpose of bringing competitive junior golf to Texarkana.
The tournament series witnessed over 50 golfers from the Texarkana area competing and will continue throughout the summer and fall of 2023. The dates for summer tournaments will be Monday, July 24, 2023, at Northridge Country Club and Thursday, August 3, 2023, at Texarkana Country Club. To participate and learn more about Red River Junior Golf and the Farmers Bank & Trust Tour, visit redriverjuniorgolf.com.
The Junior Pro-Am will showcase a diverse array of junior golfers from the Texarkana region. Several players from the TISD and PGISD golf teams recently participated in their respective State High School Championships. Others, like Alex Hammonds, have just returned from competing in Scotland at the US Kids European Championship. Numerous golfers like Molly and Roman Phillips have succeeded in regional tournaments spanning Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas. The Phillips siblings have competed in five North Texas PGA events this year, with both consistently finishing in the top ten. However, the most coveted prize awaits the opportunity to tee off with a professional golfer who may someday ascend to the pinnacle of the sport as the world’s number one-ranked player. Noteworthy APT and WAPT alumni who subsequently triumphed on the PGA and LPGA Tour include Alexa Pano, Grace Kim, Gabby Then, Will Zalatoris, Cameron Young, Ryan Palmer, Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson, and, once again, the current world’s number one golfer, Scottie Scheffler.
If you watch a game, it’s fun. If you play it, it’s recreation. If you work at it, it’s golf.” —Bob Hope