Prestigious junior golf tour coming to Brevard County
The U.S. Kids Golf Local Tour is coming to Brevard County, giving the area's junior golf program another big boost.
Courtesy of U.S. Kids Golf Local Tour
Two down, one to go.
And the last one is a biggie.
Duran Golf Club’s Director of Instruction Justin Blazer announced the U.S. Kids Golf Local Tour is coming to the Space Coast in 2020 with six events to be hosted by Brevard County courses.
The events are expected to provide another boon for junior golf in the area. Instead of having to drive to Orlando, Jacksonville or West Palm Beach to play in a tournament, children ranging in age from 5 to 14 will get a chance to compete locally.
It’s all part of the goal to put Space Coast junior golf on the map that Blazer laid out when he first arrived at Duran in 2014. It involved bringing three national initiatives to Brevard County.
The PGA Junior League, which plays host to more than 40 kids, was the first national program to come to Duran. The Drive, Chip & Putt event was the second.
“The last piece of the puzzle was having an established tour for golfers who want to play in a tournament setting individually,” Blazer said. “And that third one was U.S. Kids Golf (which gives) kids the opportunity to compete without driving an hour-and-a-half away.
“I think it’s a big deal from the sense that now we have an established local junior golf tour. The impacts are going to be tremendous.”
The first tournament is set for March 1 at Duran with subsequent events on March 8, April 19 and 26 and May 3 and 17. Locations for the remaining events were not available at press time, but local golf courses taking part include Suntree, Rockledge and Viera East.
Players can sign up at uskidsgolf.com and search for the Space Coast Tour. The cost is approximately $37 for nine-hole players (boys 5 to 10, girls 6 to 11) and $50 for 18-hole players (boys 11 to 14, girls 12 to 14).
Blazer believes there are at least three major impacts having the U.S. Kids Tour come to Brevard County and what impact it can have on local players.
For one, it will allow children to play in a competitive environment at an early age and advance their game to higher levels. Additionally, all players at U.S. Kids Golf events are encouraged to have caddies — usually a parent — to not only help them navigate the course, but also to promote family interaction. All players 8 and younger must have a caddie at all times.
“I think the impact on the younger golfers, giving them an opportunity to compete earlier and having a taste of that is good,” Blazer said.
“It would be like us having Little League practice, but there are no games. How are we going to keep the interest of junior golfers if we don’t offer a reputable league, or a reputable junior golf tour?
“PGA Junior League has curbed that, but this is that next step.”
That experience can also pay off when the players reach the high school level and perhaps allow Brevard County golfers to narrow the gap when it comes to the state tournament. Those events are often dominated by teams that come from markets where players get an earlier start.
“That part of the game, that part of the experience, is already done,” Blazer said. “So, when it’s time to play high school golf, that learning curve isn’t there.”
The third potential impact comes from the opportunities U.S. Kids Golf provides to take their games all over the country. The top five finishers in each age group will receive Priority Status which can bring invitations to play in state and regional invitational tournaments, international championships and, the big one — the world championship, held each year in Pinehurst.
“It’s the best-of-the-best for these age groups, giving them that competitive drive,” Blazer said of U.S. Kids Golf. “Every year, I have six to 12 students that qualify for the U.S. Kids World Championships and it’s a big deal for them.
“It’s an experience of a lifetime.”