November 16, 2023

GRAA Award Winner Profile – A Shining “Starr” in Hamilton County, Ohio

By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA

As we approach a new year and excitement around the annual Golf Range Association of America (GRAA) awards kicks up, we continue to recognize our 2022 winners to acknowledge their background in the game, their education, experience and impact.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, Matt Starr is the PGA Head Professional at Meadow Links and Golf Academy, one of six public golf courses that are owned and managed by the Great Parks of Hamilton County.

Starr is a three-time GRAA Top 100 Growth of the Game Teaching Professional, as well as a five-time Southern Ohio PGA Section special awards winner for player development and youth player development.

“I started playing golf when I was seven years old,” Starr explains. “My dad, who’s loved the game of golf for many years, got me playing in the junior league at the Winton Woods Golf Course, which is now The Mill Course, a sister facility to Meadow Links here in Hamilton County.”

Starr began taking lessons at that early age under Randy Neufarth, a PGA of America Golf Professional for 45 years and the 2003 Southern Ohio PGA Section Youth Player Development Award winner. Neufarth had always promised Starr a job at his facility when he turned 16, and a week after that momentous birthday, Starr was picking range balls and cleaning restrooms – he was working in the golf industry and has been ever since.

“I worked for Randy through high school and my years at Wilmington College, where I also played golf,” Starr says. “A month after I graduated, Randy’s first assistant quit, and he asked if I would finish out the season with him. I registered to be an apprentice in the PGA’s Golf Professional Training Program (GPTP) and would serve as Randy’s assistant professional for four years until he retired, and I moved into his role as the PGA Head Professional at Meadow Links in 2005.”

Today, Starr’s programming includes some of the great technology that has changed the way we teach the game. He uses V1 video and FlightScope launch monitor data in his coaching and instruction.

“We have a very unique facility that allows for a variety of programming,” Starr adds. “We provide programming for several unique demographics that would not traditionally be considered regular golfers. We run the largest Special Olympics golf event in the country and facilitate a weekly league and clinic for Special Olympics Hamilton County. I am also the Golf Director for Special Olympics Ohio. We run programming for the Down Syndrome Association of Cincinnati and UpSpring, a non-profit organization that addresses homelessness among our local youth. We offer an amputee clinic with a local orthopedic doctor, First Tee programming, a golf-in-schools program, PGA HOPE and PGA HOPE 2.0 programs.”

Starr says they are a huge supporter of school golf, annually hosting over 75 school matches, three invitationals and over 180 practice sessions from local middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities. They also offer more than 400 group lesson programs that result in more than 4,000 facility visits related to group programming. And as if that weren’t enough, Starr also coaches a girls’ high school golf team, known as the Sycamore Lady Aves.

Looking ahead, Starr continues to see more girls and women participate in the game. “Tracking gender numbers over the years, we’ve seen a majority of women participate in our adult programming and are now seeing the gender gap shrink in our junior programming as well.”

He confirms that the number of new people taking up the game is also increasing, with more adults in his beginning group programs each year.

More important than the awards he’s earned is the impact he’s had on literally thousands of individuals in Cincinnati and Hamilton County. It’s no secret that we can change lives for the better through golf and Matt Starr is one shining example of that leadership.

“I am blessed to have many mentors with many different strengths within the business, and I feel like I’ve gotten a well-rounded education in the business of golf. I credit Randy Neufarth, Tom Bach, Dennis Wells, Gene Powell, Tom Kendrick, Harry Alexander, George Long, Jeff Steinberg, Mike Deiters and my parents, of course, who were the first to put a golf club in my hands,” Starr concludes.