NGF TOP 100 BUSINESSES IN GOLF
American Junior Golf Association
Stephen Hamblin – Executive Director
Jason Etzen – Chief Business Officer
Mark Oskarson – Chief Operating Officer
Jason Miller – Chief Financial Officer
Jason Ross – Chief Tournament Business Officer
The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) is regarded as one of the premier junior golf associations in the world — a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf.
Founded in 1978, the AJGA counts 7,300 junior members, approximately 1,000 collegiate coach members and secured 844 college commitments from the class of 2019. The association conducted 119 elite tournaments in 2019 from California to Florida.
Approximately 100 careers in golf are jump-started every year thanks to AJGA internships and the organization raises $3 million annually for charities through its Leadership Links program. Additionally, the AJGA provided playing grants to players and donations back to local charities for a total of $1.5 million in 2019.
More than 300 AJGA alumni play on the PGA and LPGA Tours, while many current and former pros remain closely involved with the organization. Among them is Annika Sorenstam, who since 2009 has been deeply involved with The ANNIKA Invitational, an event that features the top junior female golfers from around the world.
“Annika’s support has been tremendous for junior golf and directly develops the next generation of golfers,” said AJGA Executive Director Stephen Hamblin.
Other pros who have their names affiliated with AJGA events in 2020 include Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, C.T. Pan, Brendan Steele, Patrick Reed, Harold Varner III, Billy Horschel and Stacy Lewis. A number of NGF GOLF 100 businesses are also aligned with the AJGA as tournament sponsors: TaylorMade, PING, Callaway, ClubCorp, GREATLife, Polo Golf, Imperial Headwear, and adidas.
“Partnering with the AJGA as a national sponsor is one of our most important relationships,” adidas Golf President Jeff Lienhart said. “At adidas, we know that through sport we have the power to change lives, and that’s right in line with the mission of the AJGA. These young players are the future of the game and we’re proud to be associated with them as they grow as individuals both on and off the course.”
Hamblin, the organization’s executive director, was 29 when he started in 1984. At the time, the AJGA had 13 events. There are now about 120 in the U.S. and Canada, with many hosted by former AJGA standouts who have gone onto successful tour careers. Among them is Varner, a native of Gastonia, North Carolina, who has been intimately involved in helping make golf accessible for juniors and last year announced plans to host an AJGA event in Winston-Salem. In a feature story about the AJGA on PGATOUR.com, Varner recalled being able to play golf for four months during the summer for $100.
“It gave me a chance to fall in love with the game,” he said.
Phil Mickelson has the most career AJGA wins all-time (12), while Woods and Charles Howell III are among a group of players tied for second place with eight.
The AJGA has also been at the forefront of the game’s pace of play discussions, having instituted a policy in 2002 that’s a cornerstone of the tournament experience in competitive junior golf, with principles have adopted by other golf organizations. Hamblin also developed a Code of Conduct policy that’s formally recognized under the new Rules of Golf (1.2).
“Golf hinges on integrity and etiquette,” Hamblin said. “It’s our responsibility in developing golf’s next generation to hold players to high standards and provide programs to develop them. Our Pace of Play program positively affects player experience. We put a lot of effort into this program and the results speak for themselves. Junior golfers like playing fast, and we’ve proven they can.”
While other junior golf organizations focus on youth participation or fostering the recreational game, the AJGA has long had a dedicated niche in the junior golf world — elite competitions that prepare and develop those who want to play in college. Providing valuable exposure for scholarships, it draws active members from 50 states and 60 countries outside the U.S.
The AJGA not only counts players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth among its former members, it also counts many of the industry’s leading companies as sponsors or partners, with strong relationships that span decades.