There are many adult golfers playing at Palmetto Golf Course each week, but there also is a group of promising youngsters who may be the next generation of professional golf stars.
The PGA Junior League, headed by Mardy F. Munoz and Derrick Payne, recently wrapped its inaugural season after months of training, practices and matches, with the end of season banquet. The age range of the youngsters is from 5 to 15.
“This is the first season that we’ve done the PGA Junior League,” Munoz said.
“Last year we did a Junior League but it wasn’t associated with the PGA. This year we had more resources and things available to us. We have 36 kids, which is the largest PGA Junior League in the South Florida District. The kids take over half of the course every Tuesday night.”
She wasn’t a golfer before, but she is now.
“My son started at the age of 4, asking to go to the driving range and play with dad,” Munoz said. “My husband played a little bit, not so much, but my son started to play, then my daughter wanted to come play. Now all four of us play, so the last two weekends we’ve been on the course together. It’s a great family activity.”
Payne is a PGA professional, at Palmetto for four years and in South Florida for 16 years.
“This is the PGA of America’s answer to Little League Baseball,” Payne said. “It’s very inclusive; we try to get any skill level ready to go play golf. Rather than just practice, they really learn the game on the course. We get them involved and get the parents involved and community support. It’s great. This is a lifetime sport. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s multigenerational.”
Besides Payne, the other two coaches, also PGA pros, are Mike Miraglia and Paul Blockoms. There are four teams, the Aces, Eagles, Birdies and Pars. In addition to the putting and driving practices, the teams play against each other and may someday compete against youngsters in other Junior Leagues.
Parent Lucas Hernandez likes the team format and the coaches.
“My daughter, Danielle Hernandez, is 8,”Hernandez said. “She’s been playing golf for three years. She’s having a blast. She loves the interaction with all the other juniors. It’s difficult for little girls to find other little girls to play with, so this is a great opportunity for juniors to meet new parents and exchange numbers and our kids can get together to play.
“She brought me into this sport. This is the sixth sport I introduced her to and she didn’t like the other ones but she took to this one, so now I’m golfing too and my wife is taking lessons. Danielle beats me every time.”
Danielle said she has enjoyed the program.
“I love going on the course and putting, and I love hitting the ball,” she said. “I like being with my friends. I have my best friends in golf.”
Another Junior League participant, Benjamin Foss, 12, enjoys playing on a team and hopes to one day be a professional golfer. He likes the program.
“It’s really good,” he said. “The coaches are really good; they teach you well. It’s very academic in a golf way.”
Although the league season has wrapped up, summer golf camp is offered for 10 weeks, from June 11 to Aug. 17 and open to all interested players — no golf experience needed. All events are held at Palmetto Golf Course, 9300 SW 152 St. For additional information, interested parents/juniors can send email to Derrick Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.