For 17 years, young golfers across Lake, Porter, and La Porte counties have enjoyed accessible, competitive, and supportive sports events, thanks to the Northwest Indiana Junior Golf Association (NIJGA).
"It started with [retired PGA Pro] Bob Jacobs wanting to provide affordable golf opportunities for kids," said Chris Wellsand, PGA Professional and NIJGA Tournament Organizer. "There are a lot of life skills that they learn through playing golf that you don't necessarily get from other sports."
Community support from regional businesses like Sand Creek Country Club, as well as invested individuals has been the key to keeping registration costs well below average competition fees. Donations of everything from course time and vehicle rentals, to financial gifts and scholarships all contribute to tournament accessibility.
"Having sponsors that back and believe in [the NIJGA] allows us to extend our reach,” Wellsand said, “so that we can give more young golfers the opportunity to play.”
So far this season, NIJGA tournaments have hosted upwards of 150 golfers, split between nine different divisions based on skill and age.
For every event, competitors are awarded points for placing first, second, and third in their division. At the end of the season, the top scorer in each division receives a Player of the Year award.
As the owner of an indoor golf and fitness studio in Valparaiso, Wellsand works with a lot of kids and has seen up close the sport’s impact in their lives.
"We've seen a lot of these kids take that education and use it in school and other sports," Wellsand said.
He strongly believes in NIJGA’s mission to expand that positive influence and access to as many regional children as possible.
"At the end of the day, it's about growing golf,” he said. “It's about giving kids an experience."
Registration information and course details can be found online at http://www.nijga.org/. Membership for the season is $25 dollars. Individual tournament fees are $10 for Prep Tour (9-hole level) players and $15 for Masters and Varsity (18-hole level) players. Scholarships are available for families who may need assistance. Registration remains open throughout the season.
Upcoming Tournament Schedule:
Tue, Jun 25, 2019 – Scherwood GC – T Times 9:30am-11:30am (Registration Closes 6/21)
Thu, Jun 27, 2019 – Palmira GC – T Times TBD (Registration Closes 6/23)
Mon, Jul 1, 2019 – Sand Creek GC – T Times 7:00am - 1:00pm (Registration Closes 6/27)
Mon, Jul 8, 2019 – Lakes of the Four Seasons – T Times 7:30am-9:30am
Mon, Jul 15, 2019 – Sandy Pines GC – T Times 7:30am Shotgun
Wed, Jul 17, 2019 – White Hawk GC – T Times 7:30am-9:30am
Mon, Jul 22, 2019 – Briar Leaf GC – T Times 7:00am-9:00am
Tue, Jul 23, 2019 – Innsbrook CC – T Times 8:30am-10:30am
Fri, Jul 26, 2019 – Beechwood GC – T Times 8:00am Shotgun