Blazer’s impact on Duran’s Juniors Academy tremendous
Members of this spring's PGA Junior League at the Duran Golf Club pose for a group photo. The club's Juniors program has grown by leaps and bounds since Justin Blazer, the director of instruction at the Duran Academy of Golf, arrived five years ago.
Courtesy of Duran Golf Club
There is no question Justin Blazer has made an incredible impact since being named the director of instruction at the Duran Academy of Golf a little more than five years ago.
And the thing is … it’s only going to get better.
“It’s hard to measure an impact year-to-year, but when you see things over the span of five years, what’s gone on … I’ve had seven kids go on to get scholarships to play golf, nine of them to go on to play college golf total,” Blazer said.
“To see them grow has been outstanding, not just on the course, but off the course. I see how impactful they are in the community and how they’ve given back.”
When Blazer arrived in 2014, there were approximately 40 kids involved in Duran’s Juniors programs. This year, more than 150 have been involved, whether it’s the after-school program, the PGA Junior League or the elite player program.
Blazer is working with more than 50 competitive players and four are ranked in the top 50 of their class on Junior Golf Scoreboard. Six players will play in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championships Aug. 1 to 3.
One of Blazer’s students, Asher Joseph, won the Future Masters Championship in the 11-12 age group in June.
Among the players Blazer has worked with who have gotten scholarships are Viera’s Calvin Sierota (Florida State) and Mary Kate Smith (Lipscomb), Windermere’s Eric Berggren (Indiana) and Cocoa’s Jenna Werle (Saint Rose).
While developing elite-level golfers is something Blazer takes pride in, so is watching those same players give back to the younger kids who will one day, hopefully, be in their shoes.
After all, it’s nice to get advice and be able to spend some time with someone you look up to.
“Calvin’s back this summer after his freshman year (at FSU) and he’s helping me with my summer camp,” Blazer said. “He just comes by and is like, ‘Hey, I want to hang out with the kids for the day.’ And then he comes by and takes some time to play golf with Asher.
“That’s huge. Pay it forward. He had kids who did that for him before I was here. Seeing my high school girls take the time to play on the Par 3 with the younger girls … to see that community and that culture forming has been pretty cool.”
Blazer has always structured his programs for golfers in one of three phases — learning how to play, learning how to be competitive and learning how to win.
The beauty of it is watching kids progress through each of the three phases.
So how does Duran improve on a program that has already become a huge success?
Abigale Shepperle, a top 50 U.S. Kid’s instructor, will start working at Duran in mid-September.
“She is the perfect fit to continue to take our academy, particularly helping the female golfers,” Blazer said.
“That’s what I’m excited about. Now, I have a teammate to come in and she can continue to grow and expand the after-school programs, the ladies programs, and I can continue to focus on growing the competitive golfer and growing the recreational golfer into that competitive golfer.
“Her and I working as a team is going to be really exciting. We complement each other. We have a lot of the same beliefs and a lot of the same philosophies. We’re here to help people. It’s not just about coaching a golf swing, or teaching a kid how to play.
“It’s also about making that junior golfer confident through golf. I’m super excited to have her here.” VV