EAST WENATCHEE — The PGA Junior League playoffs started last week as the HIghlander team upset the Wenatchee Country Club team. Not familiar with the PGA Junior League? Well, you’re not alone.
The PGA Junior League started a few years ago as a way to get kids out on the golf course playing in a team format.
“With kids, it’s a little tough to get them out there playing by themselves. The PGA developed this league where they would be in a team format,” said Highlander Golf Pro and Junior League Coach Mark Babst. “When they are out, it’s a two-person team in a scramble format.”
Teams are split up to make two-person teams, playing a best-ball or scramble format. They do mini three-hole matches for “flags.” The team with the most flags at the end of nine holes, wins.
Highlander is fielding a team for the first time this year. Babst said it has been fantastic.
“Our hopes were to get 8-10 kids. We knew the Country Club had a large following because they started a couple of years ago. Three Lakes has a pretty large following. We ended up with 20 on our team, which was fantastic,” Babst said. “It’s really heavy parent involvement. If the parent can get out with the kids to play, then it is more golf with the kids and revenue and exposure for the golf course.”
A lot of the parents are active golfers and involved, Babst said. The parents have also helped out with coaching. It has really exceeded expectations, he said.
The teams are compromised of boys and girls, ages 8-13. Babst said there is a category for older kids but they did not have enough. They practice one day and play a match one day each week.
On Monday nights, they spend a couple of hours on the range and also work on short game and putting. On Thursday, they decide the two-person teams, then go out and play nine holes.
“Because of the size of the teams for Highlander, Country Club, and Three Lakes, we actually just do in-house matches. We just play against our own teams during the season. Now, since the playoffs started, you play in your region,” said Babst, who coaches the team with PGA Pro Ed Paine.
The playoffs started last Thursday as Highlander played at the Country Club. Highlander won eight flags to four.
“That was unexpected because they have a couple years on us. Most of our kids had never even seen the golf course. To go over to their home course and beat them was nice,” Babst said.
Next, are the sub-regionals on Sunday. The Highlander team plays at Three Lakes against a team from Meadow Springs in the Tri-Cities.
“The tough thing about playing a group out of the Tri-Cities is they play pretty much year round. Their kids get more exposure to golf. The PGA guys running it down there have been doing it for a few years now,” Babst said. “I’m assuming their kids are pretty well developed within the program.”
It’s golf, so anyone can win on a given day, Babst said. He feels like his kids play well together. He’s expecting his Highlander team to give them a good run for their money.
Playing on a local course is of some benefit.
“A lot of our kids are new to golf so they haven’t played there. I’m going with two or three of them over this week so they can see the course. Three Lakes is a tree lined course with small, elevated greens. If you don’t know the course, it can be trouble,” he said.
When the kids are playing, parents can’t help. If the Highlander team wins on Sunday, they would play either Three Lakes or a team from Richland.