Derek Wiley
The Bulletin

From the Central Oregon Junior Golf Association to the Oregon Golf Association to the PGA Jr. League, young golfers in Central Oregon have multiple options for development and competition.

“They all feed into each other really, really well,” said Brian Wasserman, COJGA tournament director. “We support each other really well.”

COJGA begins with the 6 to 8 Experience, an introductory program for girls and boys ages 6-8. Golfers play Awbrey Glen’s five-hole, par 3 Loop Course, shooting into an 8-inch hole instead of the standard 4-inch cup. Scores are kept, as kids learn how to sign their own cards, but at the end of the day everyone receives a hot dog and a medal.

“We use the 6 to 8 Experience for the kids to enjoy golf and realize that it’s fun so as they turn 9, 10 years old, they start playing with us (higher COJGA divisions) in tournaments,” Wasserman said.

COJGA’s 9-10 and novice divisions play a nine-hole short course. The 12-18 age groups all play 18 holes.

COJGA hosts eight tournaments from June through August.

Tournament winners and points leaders then qualify for the COJGA Cup on Aug. 18 at Eagle Crest in Redmond.

“It’s not a high competition, cutthroat thing,” Wasserman said of COJGA. “It’s a great way for the kids to learn tournament and golf etiquette and to learn the rules.”

COJGA has decided not to compete against OGA’s Central Oregon Junior Major, scheduled for July 22-23 at Meadow Lakes in Prineville and Eagle Crest. Golfers in the Junior Major can use those results toward qualifying for the COJGA Cup.

OGA hosts junior golf sanctioned tournaments and majors all over the state.

“Typically the better players are participating in those tournaments,” Wasserman said. “OGA has become a little more important to a lot of the better players, where they feel like they can go and compete with better players around the state and around the Pacific Northwest and test out different golf courses and see how they measure up.”

But Wasserman noted that the OGA is not for everybody.

“We do have high school kids who do shoot under par and are very good golfers and they really enjoy ­COJGA because they don’t have to travel,” Wasserman said. “They can play some great golf courses in Central Oregon and still have some really good competition.”

Wasserman sees COJGA as a steppingstone to OGA.

“I’m excited when kids play COJGA for several years and become really great players and then start playing in a bunch of OGA tournaments because maybe they’re thinking about the potential of playing college golf,” he said.

Seeing the popularity of the PGA Jr. League’s scramble play, COJGA will again play one scramble tournament on June 17 at River’s Edge Golf Course in Bend. COJGA registered players can bring a friend/partner without the friend having to register with COJGA to play in the tournament. The friend/partner would pay only the tournament fee.

“We started that last year,” Wasserman said of the two-player scramble format. “It was very, very successful. The kids really had a good time. It’s very exciting for them, shooting scores under par.”

The PGA Jr. League is a national program, in which a game is played between two teams. Instead of individual stroke play, teams are made up of twosomes or threesomes who participate in a scramble format. Matches consist of nine holes and teams are coed. There are two ages divisions — 13U and 17U.

Lost Tracks, Broken Top, Tetherow, Bend Golf Club, Awbrey Glen, Juniper, Eagle Crest and Meadow Lakes all have PGA Jr. League teams.

Kyle Weeks, a PGA professional and captain of the Lost Tracks teams, called the PGA Jr. League the “T-ball version of golf.”

“It’s fun for everybody,” he said.

For more information, visit www.pgajrleague.com.

“We position ourselves as the next step for those (PGA Jr. League) kids,” Wasserman said. “Now, they can go play in individual stroke tournaments that are not necessarily as high a level of competition as being in an OGA tournament.”

COJGA’s event registration opens June 1. For more information, go to www.cojga.com.

“It’s a very, very welcoming environment,” Wasserman said. “It’s a great place for parents and for kids to get an introduction to tournament golf. There’s great camaraderie amongst the players. A lot of these players don’t know each other when they start COJGA and by the end of the season they become friends and they end up going off and playing golf together on their own.”

­­— Reporter: 541-383-0307, dwiley@bendbulletin.com

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