When Daulton Altamirano, PGA started offering PGA Jr. League in Tucson, Arizona, there were only a few teams participating in the program.
“When I first started PGA Jr. League, there were only six or eight teams around town, but we’ve grown more and more every year,” said Altamirano, the head golf professional at Omni Tucson National. “When I started there were only 40-60 kids participating, but now we have over 300.”
Altamirano, along with Sydney Teneycke, director of the Southern Chapter of the Southwest PGA Section; and Landyn Lewis, PGA, director of player development for the Tucson Golf Program, the player engagement program for Tucson City Golf; are committed to growing the game in the Tucson area. They’re joined by a host of other PGA Professionals involved in the Southern Chapter and a deeply invested community.
“The golfing community in this area is very tight-knit,” Altamirano said. “We are trying to grow the game and PGA Jr. League more and more every year.”
Recently, Altamirano, Teneycke and Lewis combined forces to create a memorable event to launch the 2023 PGA Jr. League season for the Southern Chapter. Hosted at Randolph Golf Complex in Tucson, the celebration included putting contests, games, families, snacks and lots of fun.
“At the kick-off party, you really get to see how fun the players think golf is,” Teneycke said. “They just love being out there and having a good time.”
Building upon the area’s deep love for golf, the Chapter turned to local businesses to help sponsor the event. Eegee’s, a regional chain featuring icy drinks and slushy treats, signed on to provide a few kid-approved favorites at a discount, while Randolph provided additional snacks. Body Resolution, which offers physical therapy and training, also sponsored the event. An area photographer donated his time and skills, taking candid shots during the event as well as team photos.
“We couldn’t throw a kick-off party like this without the help of our local sponsors,” Teneycke said. “We really want to support our local companies, so we reach out to them as a way to support our community.”
Players and their families entered or exited the event through the team photo station, then enjoyed the games, food and festivities. About 185 players and their families took part, celebrating the new PGA Jr. League season as well as the game itself.
“Events like this help to legitimize golf and the community that PGA Jr. League creates,” Altamarino said. “In the last 10 years, PGA Jr. League has really taken off, but some people still may not know much about it. Events like this help build PGA Jr. League’s reputation and build the case for how fun it is for the kids.”
“Our community definitely loves to back PGA Jr. League,” she said. “We’ve seen a huge influx around town of parents playing golf and getting their kids into it. It’s become a sport that everyone in the family can do together.”
Over the past few years, the Southern Chapter has seen the number of PGA Jr. League programs grow throughout the region. That’s a reflection of the program’s emphasis on teamwork, Teneycke and Altamirano say, as well as the quality golf experiences PGA Jr. League makes possible.
“The team aspect of PGA Jr. League is really important,” Teneycke said. “Players feel like it’s not all on them to do well. They have a teammate to help out, and they can work together to achieve the goal.”
“PGA Jr. League also provides access to so many courses around the area,” Altamirano added. “Many of the private clubs have teams, and PGA Jr. League allows kids to experience clubs they wouldn’t normally have access to. Playing a place like Tucson National, La Paloma—thanks to PGA Jr. League, a lot of kids have opportunities to play there as juniors.”
While Altamarino, Lewis and Teneycke loved every minute of this year’s PGA Jr. League event, they’re more excited about what it represents: continued growth of the game. For the Southern Chapter, finding more ways to invite more people into golf is the focus.
“The growth of PGA Jr. League has been amazing to see,” Lewis said. “More facilities are starting to create their own in-house leagues, which creates more All-Star teams for the Southern Chapter, and we are seeing an increase in 17u participation as well from those that are aging out of the 13u league. The future is bright!”
“Golf is a game you can easily get addicted to because there’s nothing better than hitting a really solid golf shot,” Altamarino added. “Once kids get proper instruction and know how to hit a good golf shot, that kind of hooks them on golf for the rest of their lives. PGA Jr. League is a fun way to introduce them to the game.”