NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. -- To coincide with the 2013 Memorial Tournament, the new Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, powered by SNAG, will be introduced at select local park and recreation facilities in the Golden Bear's hometown of Columbus, Ohio, as well as in New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. The Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues (JNLL) marks the first time that golf will be made available to youngsters as a team sport through local parks and recreation facilities. The innovative concept, combined with SNAG's well-established, first-touch development program, will provide a golf learning experience for children, ages 5 through 12, in a safe, affordable and accessible environment.
Nicklaus has been an important advocate for growing the game and he envisions that with SNAG's modified equipment and support, and the active participation of local park and recreation agencies through the National Recreation and Park Association, golf can have a competitive footing with such team sports as soccer, basketball and football. In an effort to supplement other growth-of-the-game initiatives, JNLL has sought the input and support of organizations such as the PGA of America and The First Tee.
"There are so many sports—team sports—played in the park system today," Nicklaus said. "Kids start playing athletics when they are as young as 4 or 5 years old, and by the time they are just 7, 8 or 9 years old, many of them have picked the two or three sports that they might want to play in the different seasons. If golf is not part of the sports introduced and available to them at their local park and recreation facilities, they will play other sports and not golf. So we need to get golf in their local parks and have them play our sport, and I think the team concept is the way to do it."
"The idea is to bring kids into the game, keep them in the game, have them learn, let them have fun, have fun with their friends, and then they can advance to the next level where they get on a golf course and develop. I just hope these leagues create the same enthusiasm for golf that I discovered at their age."
Some 100 Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues are planned for 2013 and an estimated 300 are projected to launch in 2014.
Terry Anton, founder and CEO of SNAG Golf, is enthusiastic about the leadership position of Jack Nicklaus in the establishment of the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues.
"Jack Nicklaus' vision to bring golf to the same venues where other organized sports thrive will make it easier to develop our future golfers," Anton said. "These leagues will introduce millions of new players to the sport and will help nurture children developing their motor skills and do it in a fun way. SNAG is honored to have been selected to participate with history's greatest golfer and the NRPA in the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues. Our task is to make his vision a reality by implementing SNAG's programming in the parks and directing this feeder system into all on-course golf programs. This is an important stepping stone for the industry to capture interest in golf early so that youngsters will transition with confidence to play with actual golf equipment on a traditional course. The more fun we make golf for children, the more chance they have to play the game for a lifetime."
The use of parent-coaches and turning soccer and other playing fields into venues for this golf competition will be pivotal to the implementation of the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues, through the auspices of the National Recreation and Park Association.
"Local parks and recreation are the go-to places where children can learn to play sports and develop a connection to healthy activities," says Barbara Tulipane, president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association. "We are so proud to be bringing the Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues and SNAG to park and recreation agencies across the country, because not only is it a great program but it means more children will have the chance to participate in the sport of golf in a fun and unique way and develop a connection to a healthy activity that will last them a lifetime."
The NRPA will administer grants to park and recreation facilities across the U.S. to underwrite the costs associated with providing Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues equipment, coaching and programming. A 501©3 entity, G.O.L.F. (the Global Outreach for Learning Foundation), is being established to raise the necessary funds. G.O.L.F.'s mission is to help people develop golf skills and have fun through developmentally appropriate programs. The goal is to ensure retention and provide a sustainable model for transition to other programs at golf facilities, in order to increase participation for current and future generations. (For information on G.O.L.F. visit www.thegolffoundation.org.)
The Jack Nicklaus Learning Leagues are separated by age groups: 5-6 and 7-8-year-olds with the intention of expanding to 9-10 and 11-12 in the near future. Each league will have a set number of children per team and incorporate a specialized, age-appropriate format and learning curriculum.
JNLL & G.O.L.F. Foundation
Scott Tolley, Vice President, Corporate Communications