Eric Kulinna has been PGA Director of Player Development at Lone Tree Golf Club since early in 2012 but his roots in developing golfers, specifically new golfers, goes back to the days before he was working professionally. Eric’s first chance to introduce people to the game was as a graduate student at the University of Illinois. His first semester teaching golf classes convinced Eric that new players need to be taught differently and it also created a passion in Eric to develop methods to make the early steps in golf learning easy and fun.
The player development philosophy developed at Lone Tree was based on casting the biggest net possible to attract both new adult and junior golfers. So that year Eric started his promotion of a Get Golf Ready program (that has become one of the most successful in the region) and later that year Lone Tree became an approved site for The First Tee of Phoenix. Eric told me that these two proven programs attract big numbers matching the philosophy of casting that big net.
So with hundreds of junior golfers now being introduced through programming at Lone Tree Eric noticed a need for a development bridge to help juniors get to the golf course more often.
In 2014 Eric cast the big net again when he started PGA Junior League Golf at Lone Tree. In the first season he didn’t have just a single team of 10-12 players but the facility was able to field an entire league of 4 teams with 40 junior players 13 years old and younger. This past season the league at Lone Tree has continued to grow to include players from Augusta Ranch and Longbow GC. Eric was also approved to participate in a pilot program league this year for players 16 and under that was held at select sites around the country.
Eric really liked the concept of PGA Junior League Golf the first time he heard about it. The idea of kids playing on teams (patterned after Little League Baseball), playing a scramble match play format with a partner from their own team, allowing for substitutions to help get less experienced players into the action seemed unique and fun.
In a conversation with Eric about Junior League he continues to be enthusiastic about the wide number of players Junior League can reach. It helps the newest player get more comfortable on the course, it helps the player who may never compete in High School but wants golf as a lifelong hobby, and it’s a step for juniors who may become more serious aspiring to play competitively. The All-Star post season aspect of Junior League is a more competitive opportunity for those who are looking for an introduction to golf at the next level.
PGA Junior League encourages local sponsors and Eric and his league players are grateful to Coulter Cadillac who support his Leagues and keep the cost down for those participating. Eric is making plans to add seasons outside the regular competitive season of May-July because of the popularity of the program and the chance to cast his big net again among new golfers.
For more information about PGA Junior League Golf go to pgajrleaguegolf.com