In 1994, Todd Thompson, a former All-SEC golfer at the University of Georgia, started the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour (SJGT). Junior golfers of the early-mid 90s played all of their competitive golf in the summer largely due to a lack of options during other seasons. The SJGT offered an offseason schedule with 6 spring and fall events in its first year. Thompson had recently exited the golf club professional world having gained solid relationships with respected golf clubs around the southeast. These relationships paid off as these golf clubs held the first SJGT tournaments. Today, holding SJGT events is a way for clubs to attract more customers and members.
Shortly after its inaugural season, word got out and the SJGT took off. Summer seasoned junior golfers didn’t have to hang up their spikes until November, because the SJGT offered an almost year round schedule. 36-hole tournaments allowed juniors to arrive late Friday afternoon after school for practice rounds and be home with enough time for homework (or TV) on Sunday. Based in Atlanta, most SJGT events were within 5 hours of the Tour’s headquarters.
As more members joined, more SJGT tournaments took place and competition got better. With better competition, the SJGT helped players gain access into American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) tournaments. Winners of certain SJGT events gained exemptions into AJGA events. Without these exemptions, the SJGT players had to go through a much less appealing application process to gain entry to AJGA tournaments. The AJGA served, and still serves, as the national proving ground for junior golfers looking to gain Division-1 college golf scholarships. This pipeline was great progress for the SJGT.
Coupled with opportunities to gain Division-1 college golf scholarships, players derive multiple other long term benefits from playing on the SJGT. Golf connects people better than almost any social networking tool available today. SJGT players may spend an average of 10 weekends a year together making it difficult not to develop strong off the course friendships. Imagine a networking tool that brings 144 people to the same place for 10 weekends a year and requires them to take group walks outside for five hours at a time. For most SJGT players, opportunities to receive golf scholarships are far secondary to the long term personal relationships gained on the SJGT. Most working professionals would pay much more than an entry fee for such effective networking tools.
Today, the SJGT continues growing with 43 tournaments and 1000 members in 2011. On top of its notoriety in junior golf, well known corporate sponsors such as Nike, Auto Trader, and Synovus Bank all contribute to moving the Tour’s efforts forward. Players not only enjoy well funded events, but also gain wider notoriety than ever before by winning on the SJGT. Oh yeah, and there is still the relationship building factor. In sum, the Southeastern Junior Tour came from a 6 tournament series in 1994 to one of the best junior golf programs in the United States today.