By Curt Peterson
KILLINGTON—From June 21-24, 78 young golfers, boys and girls ages 12-19, will be competing at Green Mountain National Golf Course (GMNGC) in one of more than 100 American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) tournaments across the country.
This is half the usual field for an AJGA tournament, limited by pandemic restrictions. The Killington event has 49 boys and 29 girls currently registered. May 30 is the deadline for applications.
GMNGC general manager David Bowyer said the clubhouse will be open for window take-out during the event. Only staff and AJGA officials will be allowed inside.
There are 7,300 supporting members in the AJGA, which was founded in 1970 in Georgia.
The prize to which the golfers aspire is college scholarships. AJGA claims to have provided $16.8 million in scholarships to the “class of 2020” through their Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) grant program. That averages almost $22,000 for each of the 765 players who received college commitments during the year.
ACE grants also provide financial aid for participating players burdened by the cost of meals (AJGA provides only one during the tournament), hotel accommodations, the $230 entry fee, practice round fees, and travel.
In addition, 2020 tournaments raised $4 million for charities.
AJGA tournaments adhere to local and federal Covid-19 restrictions regarding sanitizing, social distancing and masking for both players and any accompanying family members.
“We have not generally had any violations,” AJGA player services representative Collin Mugume told the Mountain Times. “People are very compliant, as they know it affects the health of everyone.”
Mugume said AJGA management adjusts requirements as mandates and guidelines change over time and place-to-place.
The tournament involves 36 holes of stroke-play golf, players’ scores recorded on a phone application called Golf Genius.
State Representative Jim Harrison will be a volunteer coordinator.
“I get to recruit and assign up to 80 volunteers over the course of the tournament,” Harrison said. “These include timers, score recorders, spotters, water replenishers, and player shuttle drivers between holes that are distant from one another.”
The AJGA circuit attracts college golf team recruiters from the region — Harrison said celebrity golfers such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Will Zalatoris played in AJGA events when they were in high school.
“It’s run pretty much like a PGA event,” Harrison said. “It attracts some of the best high school players from around the country and the world.”
Besides promoting players, AJGA semi-annual internships, whereby young men and women volunteer to help run events and do administration work, often lead to non-playing roles in sports management and other golf-related fields.
Bowyer told the Select Board this is the last season in a three-year contract, and he hopes it will bring extra business to the community at large.
The AJGA contracts are often renewed for additional seasons, Mugume said.