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Before They Were Great

18 holes with Tina Mickelson

By Tina Mickelson

Back in 1968, Lou Smith, John Brown, and Norrie West decided that the San Diego Junior Golf Association would host the Junior World Golf Championships. The goal was simple: to enable junior golfers to come together and enjoy a cultural exchange while sharing the game of golf. In its inaugural year, an impressive 475 junior golfers came from seven countries and 20 states.

It’s now known as the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships. Some of its past winners have gone on to enjoy famed careers in the PGA and LPGA. Among them: John Cook, Craig Stadler, Amy Alcott, Billy Mayfair, Corey Pavin, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Chris Riley, Lorena Ochoa, Pat Perez, Kevin Stadler, and Jason Day.

During the early years, these young talents stood posing for pictures and never imagined those photos would later be used in numerous golf magazines and TV montages to chronicle their success stories. But today, junior golfers know what’s at stake, and dream of walking in the footsteps of their heroes.

From July 14 to 18, about 1,200 participants representing 56 countries and 42 states will come to various courses around San Diego to compete—making this event the largest international junior golf tournament in the world. It is also a college coach’s dream—we’re talking recruiting utopia. Most colleges don’t have the funds for international recruiting, so this offers the opportunity to scout the top international players without having to leave the country. Last year, 124 college coaches attended, and that number is expected to increase this year.

It’s hard to imagine the pressure these kids face today. The time, effort, and financial commitment, mixed with lofty scholarship and career goals, make this tourney a defining one for junior golfers. But while there’s a lot on the line, the goal remains the same: to bring talented youngsters together and make the world a better place through the game of golf.

Before They Were Great

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