PGA Junior League to return to Belmont Hills Country Club

T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY THE BELMONT Hills Country Club will once again serve as a host to the PGA Junior League, starting in May. Pictured, from left, are BHCC Club Professional Ron Baker and Jaren Straughn, who helps oversee the Junior League program.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The sport of golf is growing at the high school level in Belmont County.

A big reason for that is the sport’s being promoted at the youth level similar to other sports.

And one of the area’s most successful — and continually growing — programs for youth golf is about to tee off on its sixth season at Belmont Hills Country Club in St. Clairsville.

The PGA Junior League program will begin in mid May and is currently accepting registrations for the season.

“The last four years, our program (at BHCC) has been deemed the best program in the Southern Ohio PGA section,” Belmont Hills Club Professional Ron Baker said. “It’s definitely something we’re proud of. It’s a really fun thing that the kids really enjoy.”

The numbers have steady grown throughout the program, which is open to kids of all skill levels aged 6-17.

“The first year of the program, we had between 35 and 40 kids,” Baker said.

Since then, however, the program went to 60, up to 80 and then peaked in 2021 at 106 before going to 96 last summer.

The PGA Junior League is similar to Little League Baseball, according to Baker.

“Obviously, golf isn’t always thought of as a team sport, but this program allows for that,” Baker said. “The kids are broken, by age group, into teams, they receive a jersey with a number and a team name on the back. They have coaches, who hold practices and then they play scrambles.”

All of the practices and matches are held at Belmont Hills Country Club.

“The main objective of the league is to teach the kids the game of golf and work on skills,” Baker said. “We hope when they leave the program they have the fundamentals and basics engrained in their heads, which will then carry with them as they progress in the sport.”

Practices and matches are open to the public and often times some of the matches have the feel of a high-level golf tournament as galleries follows the players. Toward the end of the season, Belmont Hills is also planning to implement a family scramble, which is also aimed at introducing more people to the game.

“We really like that the program can bring families and communities together through golf,” Jaren Straughn, who helps oversee the program at Belmont Hills, said. “The program helps the kids make friends, they have fun and the families come out and cheer them on.”

The league wraps up its season in late July, which allows the older-aged players to basically go right into their high school or junior high golf season in early August.

“We’re seeing the effects at the high-school level,” Baker said. “I would like to think the PGA Junior League is playing a role in that.”

Last summer, a Belmont Hills-based squad, comprised of Kamden Kinyo, Matthew Brown, Alyssa Tomlinson and Coltyn Harman advanced through the PGA Junior Tour program All-Star program to the regional tournament in Kalamazoo, Mi on Labor Day weekend.

“That team won its division in Springfield and then went on to Michigan against teams from Ohio, Indiana and Michigan and actually finished fourth overall,” Straughn said.

The cost of the program, which includes family events, games, pool party, practices, time on the course, etc, is $250 for Belmont Hills CC members and $299 for non members.

“Everything the kid gets, if you broke it down individually, is valued at much more,” Baker said.

Anyone seeking more information, can contact either Baker or Straughn at BHCC at 740-695-2263 or via email at admin@belmonthillscc.net.

Registrations must be done online, however, via PGAJuniorLeague.com and then search for Belmont Hills.

There will be a welcoming party to begin the season at BHCC on May 7.


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