October 22, 2014

Paving the Way for Girls Golf in Ohio

By Judd Stephenson, PGA Youth Player Development Committe member and  PGA head professional at Avon (Ohio) Oaks Country Club.

A s a PGA member with two sons, it’s ironic that one of my passions continues to be girls’ golf. I do have two nieces whose interest in the game was met with some potholes along the way, and I want to help positively shape girls’ lives through the game of golf.

That’s what led to my position as the Executive Director of the Ohio Girls Golf Founda- tion (OGGF), started by Northern Ohio Amateur Legend Mary Ann Bierman and her daughter, Ann Caja, in the early 1990s. Teen Burke, the third member of the original OGGF Board is now the president and is a Northern Ohio PGA “Legend of Golf.” LPGA Tour Profes- sionals Barb Mucha, of Parma Ohio, and Scotland’s Janice Moodie are the faces of the Foundation that has inspired golfers for the past two decades in Ohio. Northern Ohio PGA Executive Director Dominic Antenucci also sits on the Board of Trustees.

Currently, the Foundation has numerous activities: conducting introductory clinics for girls ages 8 to 18, April, at six different sites across the state; supporting an ongoing instructional program for girls who have attended the spring clinics; hosting a high school girls’ golf showcase tournament in the summer at Avon Oaks Country Club, where I am the PGA Professional and Club Manager; awarding $1,000 scholarships via a committee of secondary educators; and offering financial aid for girls to attend various tournaments.

The OGGF Showcase is a unique day where incoming freshman all the way to graduated seniors can partake. The day starts with two clinic time slots for 40 minutes each. The first clinic focuses on the short game areas and is hosted by Northern Ohio PGA Professional volunteers. It includes sand, pitching, chip- ping and putting. The second clinic is about on-course management and strategy, which makes full use of the LPGA playing experience of Mucha and Moodie. After one clinic ses- sion, the young ladies can stay or move to an- other area of interest or where they need improvement. After a quick lunch, we have an 18-hole tournament that concludes with both team and individual awards. The small entry fee may be offset by selling raffle tickets, either as a team or individually.

The OGGF’s ongoing instructional program is another facet unique to the Founda- tion. More than 30 Northern Ohio PGA and LPGA Professionals have agreed to offer four 30-minute lesson packages for a total of $100, half of which is paid by the OGGF. The inten- tion is to take the larger clinic dynamic and work it into a smaller setting. Girls may partic- ipate in the program as a single, pair or in a group of three. After this introduction is made, the juniors may take advantage of lesson pro- motions offered by the individual instructors.

All in all, over the past 20 years, the OGGF has granted $104,000 in scholarships to more than 100 girls statewide to attend college. You do not have to be playing golf in college to be eligible. However, golf experience in high school is mandatory and applications are eval- uated using a blind system overseen by a com- mittee of secondary school educators.

The success of the Foundation, like any organization, is reliant on the sponsorship of many, including the Cleveland Women’s Golf Association, Greater Cleveland Golf Association, and many local businesses with dona- tions that vary from the purchase of a $10 raffle ticket to $5,000 from tournament sponsor Fairway Sports Management.

With its clinics, tournaments, scholarship and financial aid programs, the Ohio Girls Golf Foundation introduces youth to countless educational, recreational and career opportunities through the game of golf—and has been a catalyst for growing the game.