PGA of America Teams With American Society of Golf Course Architects to Award Seven First Links Grants to Attract New Golfers

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (June 12, 2012) – The American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), in partnership with The PGA of America, has awarded seven grants to facilities in seven states as part of the First Links program to welcome new players to the game. Launched during the 2012 PGA Merchandise Show, First Links encourages facilities nationwide to dedicate either a portion of an existing layout or an undeveloped area to support space for beginners or lapsed players. The PGA of America committed support of $50,000 in grants, with ASGCA representatives visiting an applicant’s site.

The first cycle of grants were awarded to Battenkill Country Club, Greenwich, N.Y.; Bunker Hill Golf Course, Medina, Ohio; Elliot Golf Course in Cherry Valley, Ill.; Inland Greens, Wilmington, N.C.; North Kingstown (R.I.) Golf Course; Paxon Hollow Country Club, Marple Township, Pa.; and Val Halla Golf & Recreation Center, Cumberland, Maine.

“The PGA of America is excited about all opportunities to grow the game, and our partnership with the American Society of Golf Course Architects,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “The door is open to creativity among the industry, and First Links now becomes the gateway to retain players and to increase the enjoyment of the golf experience.”

PGA Professional John Rainone, in his 11th season as head professional at North Kingstown (R.I.) Golf Course, has plans to begin the First Links initiative on a two-acre piece of ground that was a former maintenance facility. North Kingstown Golf Course lies on a former U.S. Navy base, and has been in consultation with ASGCA member Robert McNeil.

“We have a lot of possibilities here, and we are very pleased to have the support through First Links,” said Rainone. “We could build a short game practice area, a few short holes, invite families, and make it a fun experience. You know that Rhode Island is the smallest state and everyone knows everyone. Well, I invited the Town Manager to join us for a round of golf and found out that he and one of our partners that day coach in the town’s little league and were playing each other that night! We look forward to seeing how we can make the most of our little course here.”

Among the first cycle of grant recipients was the Rockford (Ill.) Park District, where LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf Coordinator Nancy Kauzlarich oversees the events at Elliot Golf Course in Cherry Valley, Ill., and works with ASGCA Associate Todd Quitno.

“We are thrilled to be a recipient of the First Links grant,” said Kauzlarich. “Elliot Golf Course has a very old practice area and additional property that will be designed for a second Learning Links facility.

“One of the biggest challenges a new golfer faces is the ability to learn to play the game in a relaxed atmosphere. This project will eventually be a 3 to 6-hole par-3 course. All ages will be able to play the great game of golf on this course. We will offer different types of golf balls - Cayman golf balls - so more experienced golfers can have different shot selections than our new golfers. The course will also allow us to have our lesson participants play a golf hole during their lesson, thereby honing their skills while they learn. We would not have been able to take on this project without the partnership with The PGA of America and the American Society of Golf Course Architects. It is a perfect fit to helping grow the game of golf to all ages.”

The City of Wilmington, N.C., has begun plans to develop Inland Greens; a park complex that features nine holes of an original par-3 that will be “retrofitted” The other nine holes will be converted to a passive park.

“We are excited about being chosen for the First Links program,” said Wilmington Recreation Supervisor Jonathan Batts. “We plan to open in the summer of 2013. Our goal is for inland greens to serve as a starter program for beginning golfers to youth and adults as well as a practice facility for advanced golfers to work on their short games.”

Courses interested in applying for the fall grants, should apply by July 15, through a grant application form available at www.asgca.org. For further information, contact Aileen Smith, ASGCA Foundation staff liaison, aileen@asgca.org.

About the American Society of Golf Course Architects

Founded in 1946 by 14 leading architects, the American Society of Golf Course Architects is a non-profit organization comprised of experienced golf course designers located throughout the United States and Canada. Members have completed a rigorous two-year long application process that includes the peer review of four representative golf courses. ASGCA members are experienced golf course architects, able to counsel in all aspects of golf course design and remodeling and comprise many of the great talents throughout the golf industry. For more information about ASGCA, including a current list of members, visit http://www.asgca.org or call (262) 786-5960.

About The PGA of America

Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public’s interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf.