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Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 17, 2017

Questions And Answers With Bob Bush - Director of Minnesota PGA Junior Golf
Minnesota PGA Junior Golf Director Bob Bush receives the Cup Matches trophy from Wisconsin PGA Junior Golf  Director Andy Landenberger.
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Minnesota PGA Junior Golf Director Bob Bush receives the Cup Matches trophy from Wisconsin PGA Junior Golf Director Andy Landenberger.
Team Minnesota poses with the cup after defeating Team Wisconsin in the MN-WI Jr. PGA Cup Matches.
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Team Minnesota poses with the cup after defeating Team Wisconsin in the MN-WI Jr. PGA Cup Matches.
By Tim Cotroneo

Bob Bush, the Minnesota PGA Junior Golf Director, is living proof that an internship can be a turning point in a college student's career path. Upon learning he needed an internship to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation at St. Cloud State, Bush arranged to work at Baker National Golf Course in Medina, MN.

One of Bush's internship responsibilities was to shadow and assist the people coordinating the Minnesota PGA Junior event held at Baker National GC. After the internship, graduation, and working three years in the golf industry, Bush was hired as the Minnesota PGA Junior Golf Director, a position he still holds today.

In the 22 years since he assumed the Junior Golf Director reins in 1996, Bush has witnessed and enjoyed dynamic growth in Minnesota's junior ranks. Minnesota PGA Junior membership in Minnesota, the Dakotas, and western Wisconsin has doubled, and junior golf events have tripled. Tee Times caught up with Bush on the eve of this summer's Junior Golf season and asked him to reflect on the past two decades, as well as cast an eager eye toward the future.

How has your job overseeing and conducting junior events evolved since 1996?
Junior golf in the Minnesota Section has definitely experienced tremendous growth. We've gone from around 800 juniors to over 1,700 this year. We also anticipate conducting 180 events in 2017. That's compared to the 60 events we organized in 1996.

What has driven the Minnesota PGA Junior Golf Association's rise?
Ironically, I started this job the same year Tiger Woods hit the golf scene. The media exposure tied to Tiger's success helped launch golf's overall participation. Today, players like Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson continue to help drive golf's popularity.

On a more local level, the support from the facilities, PGA professionals, managers and club owners has helped grow the Minnesota PGA Junior Golf Association.

Also, since starting in 2014, the Drive, Chip, and Putt competitions (https://www.drivechipandputt.com/registration/create-account) held around the country have been great for growing the game with youngsters.

Looking back, what was a 2016 Junior Golf highlight?
For the past 20 years, we've had an annual event called the Minnesota Wisconsin Junior Cup Championship. This is 12-boy and 12-girl team tournament played in a Ryder Cup format. The Minnesota Team won at the SentryWorld Golf Course in Stevens Point, WI.

Tell us about your Junior Golf calendar for 2017?
We go full bore in June. On June 19 alone, we have nine events throughout the Section. Kids will be playing in the Twin Cities metro, Detroit Lakes, Rochester, Duluth, and Faribault. We continue with events right up through the MEA weekend.

For someone not familiar with junior golf, what would surprise them about the program?
We've developed different programs based on age and playing ability. For example, our Beginners' Tour is designed for 8-12 year-olds who have little or no experience in competitive golf. The field is divided into two age divisions: 8-9 and 10-12. Beginners' Tour events are held mostly on Par-3 courses.

As a child's golf ability develops and grows, we offer more advanced programs for Junior golfers; Transitions Tour, a Junior Tour, and a Players Tour.

What does the Minnesota Section of the PGA do to help area golf courses grow the game?
We're lucky to have people like Kathy Swanson, our Director of Member Services and Player Development, represent us. Kathy travels throughout the section in a big Minnesota PGA Sprinter Van promoting golf, conducting clinics, and helping golf courses enhance their bottom line.

Last year Kathy's efforts proved to be a rousing success; especially in International Falls. Tom O'Connell, the PGA Professional at Falls Country Club shared that his course never had a female professional teach there before. Kathy and Tom promoted a golf clinic on social media, and they also arranged for a wine and cheese event to accompany all the golf activities. Well over 100 women showed up to gain instruction from Kathy. About 80 of the attendees were our neighbors from Canada.

When Kathy started working for the Minnesota PGA in 2014, her van had 15,000 miles on it. Today the PGA van has 60,000 miles driven. A part of Kathy's program includes getting kids excited about golf in general. For events with children, Kathy brings giant inflatables along with our mascot named Mulligan McRough, which provides a unique aspect to their golfing experience. It is very important to make a lasting impression on what is most of these kids' first golfing experience.

What would you recommend for a parent interested in getting their child started in golf?
Parents should know that Minnesota is home to one of the top junior programs in the nation. Parents should checkout our website, www.minnesotajuniorgolf.com. Another great way to get your child excited about golf is to sign up for one of the Drive, Chip, and Putt events held throughout the state. Over the past two years, we have had two girls and two boys represent Minnesota at the National Finals held at Augusta National before the Masters.

What are your favorite memories since starting your job 22 years ago?
Seeing some of the opportunities that children have today that weren't available when I was younger. Also, it's rewarding to see kids grow into adults. These kids not only become better players, they become better human beings. http://www.minnesotajuniorgolf.com/

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