|The “ridiculous” rise of Youth on Course in 2020|
By Dominic Dastoli, Contributing Writer to Miami Valley Golf Foundation
In 2020, the Miami Valley Youth on Course program experienced an unlikely outcome: record growth.
Last spring, when COVID-19 temporarily shut down golf courses throughout Ohio, “We were freaking out,” said Jordan Liddy, an assistant professional at The Golf Club at Yankee Trace, Miami Valley’s most active Youth on Course facility. “We had no idea what was going to happen.”
But a pair of fortuitous events broke in golf’s favor.
During the initial course closure, schools pivoted to remote classes and shortened their schedules, which gave students more free hours during the day.
By April, local and state officials deemed golf safe enough to reopen under social distancing guidelines. Many parents soon realized that golf represented a safe and responsible alternative to other activities and sports.
On top of all that, the $5 fee to play nine holes made Youth on Course overwhelmingly affordable.
Those factors explain why 80% of Youth on Course members say that golf became their primary sport during COVID-19.
At Yankee Trace, dozens of kids showed up each week. Participation went “through the roof,” according to first assistant professional Matt Dulli. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The rise in Youth on Course participation at Yankee Trace reflected a trend throughout Miami Valley, which has five Youth on Course facilities. In 2020, nearly 1,000 junior
golfers participated in Youth on Course, up from less than 600 in 2019. Altogether, area juniors played more than 3,000 rounds in 2020, nearly double the amount played the previous season.
“It was ridiculous,” Dulli said of the increased Youth on Course participation.
No one embodied that increase more than Centerville Sophomore Aaron Tobe. In 2020, Tobe played 69 rounds through Youth on Course, the most of any junior golfer in Miami Valley.
Youth on Course’s $5 fee made Yankee Trace affordable for Tobe. He played the majority of his rounds with his two closest friends, Jacob Lehmann and Eddie Staudt.
“Youth on Course definitely had a big impact on our friendship.” Tobe said. “It really enabled us to bond and become close.”
Last March, Tobe had been stuck at home “playing video games.” Later that summer, he played golf nearly every day, an unlikely turn of events that helped fuel an unlikely outcome for Youth on Course in 2020.
For Youth on Course to continue to flourish, it needs our golf community’s involvement. For just $40, you can sponsor a junior for an entire season. To play it forward and give, visit mvgf.org. If you have a junior who would like to join, visit youthoncourse.org.