First Published in The Golf Journal

Earlier this week, USGA CEO Mike Whan announced our commitment to build a junior development program and national team for American golfers, bringing us in line with nearly every other country in the game

It is hard to believe a U.S. national program doesn’t already exist, given all the successful grass-roots initiatives and junior golf events here. Perhaps that is part of the challenge: There is so much golf programming, it is difficult to navigate. If a young boy or girl watching a tour pro turns to a parent and says, “I want to do that”… well, there is no clear pathway to that.

Ultimately, we want to ensure that talented juniors have the necessary resources to chase their dreams. There are many factors that go into building a national program, and it will be a multi-year process. But we will get there.

First, we will focus on identifying junior players with potential, and provide them with resources to aid their development. Tournament results and player rankings do not always identify rising stars, so we will lean on our Allied Golf Associations (AGAs) and other industry partners to help elevate talent to us.

Then, we focus on needs, primarily funding. Playing competitive golf is an expensive proposition; we believe strongly that athletes’ success should not rely on the wealth of their family or their geographic location. While we may not be able to help every athlete, we want to mitigate the cost barrier as much as we can. It is also important for our elite athletes to be part of a national team where we can support them as other countries do their athletes.

At the same time, we want to ensure our athletes have a healthy golf-life balance. As a former tour pro, I know firsthand how tough the game can be at the elite level – physically and mentally. We are passionate about having a robust mentoring program to assist athletes through every step of their journey.

Over time, I hope we give more American players a chance to advance in the game and reach the pinnacle of the sport while building a lasting program that fosters future generations of homegrown talent.

– Heather Daly-Donofrio, USGA Managing Director, Player Relations and Development