golf: Jr. program still teeing it up after 30 years

2013-07-15T00:00:00Z golf: Jr. program still teeing it up after 30 yearsZack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Tom Cunningham had no doubt that the Junior Golf Association of Arizona would survive.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the JGAA, and Cunningham, its longtime executive director, always knew the program would have longevity - economy be damned.

"I never thought it would go away," said Cunningham, who's been with the JGAA for 18 years. "We've grown quite a bit. As the economy goes up and down, you have the ups and downs. Right now we're rebuilding, trying to recover from a recession, but I think the need for it (JGAA) was always here."

The JGAA is a nonprofit group that runs golf events, clinics, programs and tournaments for boys and girls, ages 5 to 18.

As the JGAA celebrates its 30 years in existence, here's a look at all you need to know about the longstanding organization:

How it started

In 1983, Payne Palmer II, Tom Hornaday and John Riggle joined together to form the JGAA. The first event wasn't until three years later, but that trio of men "thought it was time that the state of Arizona had better organized golf," Cunningham said.

Where it's at now

Cunningham has been around for 19 of the 30 years the JGAA has been in existence, but he's definitely seen some growth, particularly in membership totals and number of events and tournaments. He estimates there's about 3,000 total members, if not more.

In June and July this year alone, the JGAA is helping out with 16 different tournaments.

"There's more events than we ever had when I started," Cunningham said, "that's for darn sure.

Where it leads

Many JGAA alumni have gone onto play golf at the collegiate and professional levels, Cunningham and assistant executive director Scott McNevin pointed out.

That includes Tucsonans such as PGA Tour vet Michael Thompson (Rincon/University High School) and the LPGA Tour's Sara Brown (Salpointe Catholic).

"That's a great thing," McNevin said. "But, the best thing is seeing members be good citizens in the community."

Going forward

Now that the JGAA has lasted for three decades, what's in store for the next three?

"Our tagline is 'Golf for life'," Cunningham said. "We have a goal to reach out to as many kids as we can to provide programs for them. The goal is to keep golf at the focal point as a recreational activity for kids. Keep them outdoors, something that teaches them the core values of life like honor, and integrity and sportsmanship."

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