This innovative youth sports franchise model is re-shaping the way we teach and grow the game at the grassroots level.
What started in 2003 with love for both a kid sister and for golf has guided TGA Premier Golf to a pathway that will introduce a million more kids to the game.
Joshua Jacobs, CEO of TGA and former collegiate golfer at Atlanta’s Emory University, was helping his little sister pick her elementary school programs in the fall of 2003. Golf was not on the menu at this Los Angeles school, and he recognized an opportunity to develop an innovative program that could introduce youngsters, ages 3-13, to his favorite sport.
How “Teach, Grow, and Achieve” Embody the TGA Philosophy
He developed a curriculum based upon the three principles of the “TGA” acronym—Teach, Grow, Achieve. He then created partnerships with six schools and started after-school programs. Those six quickly became 25 in the Los Angeles area by the end of the first year. In just three years, his original idea had evolved into the first, and still only, youth sports franchise model that creates a seamless player pathway between introductory, recreational, and competitive golf programs.
Fifteen years later and all across the nation, TGA students are enthusiastically swinging their clubs, and the families are enthusiastically supporting their efforts.
“The best way to increase the number of golfers is through grassroots programs delivered by incentivized local entrepreneurs,” said Jacobs. “TGA is unique because we provide the first and only youth sports franchise business opportunity in golf for entrepreneurs, while breaking down traditional barriers to entry through programs that bring golf to the masses in schools and community centers.”
The TGA model flourishes nationwide and in the Northeast for several reasons: the locations of its programs; the player pathway it creates for students and families; the station-based curriculums that incorporate academics and STEAM lessons; golf skill progression; physical fitness and health components; and the passionate franchise owners who are vested to grow the sport.
TGA is also the only golf program in schools that incorporates STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) Labs to teach how and why the game is played effectively. With academics woven seamlessly into the program, school principals and families in the Northeast have embraced the program in their communities.
Kevin Rooney and His TGA Relationship
When Kevin Rooney was just 22-years old and a college student at the University of Tampa, he had a passion for the golf industry, working in various capacities as a PGA intern including as a caddie and in working outside operations at Ridgewood Country Club in Bergen County, NJ.
He recognized the unique career opportunity TGA offered in the golf industry and quickly became its youngest franchise owner in 2005.
Rooney said, “I was looking for a career in the golf industry that could allow me to grow and build my own business, and the jobs at the time were tough to find. I really liked TGA’s franchise model because there was an established infrastructure, start-up fees were reasonable, and I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.
“My strength was business and marketing. I combined this strength with TGA’s expertise in the education/curriculum side of bringing golf into schools. Also vital to my success was that TGA offered a unique service that wasn’t available anywhere else in the industry.”
Rooney’s Success Story Thirteen Years Later
Thirteen years later, Rooney is realizing his dream of a career in the golf industry as TGA has become one of the leading growing-the-game initiatives. The innovative model to bring golf directly to school campuses is sweeping the nation, and Rooney did not take long to expand his business, adding a second franchise in Westchester County, NY, in 2008.
Today, Rooney is running after-school golf enrichment programs in more than 90 schools across the two counties and still growing. Since he launched the program, over 15,000 children ages 5-13 have participated.
“The growth has been tremendous. Parents and schools have embraced our programs, and we are adding new schools all the time,” explained Rooney. “We anticipate reaching 25,000 kids in the next three to five years, giving kids of all ages a convenient, affordable, and accessible opportunity to be introduced to the game of golf, and we don’t stop there, which is the key to the health of the game.”
Once the students go through the after-school golf enrichment classes, they move on to the next step, which is experiencing the game through local golf course partnerships that TGA develops. This is a true player pathway. Rooney will conduct over 40 week-long summer camps at three area golf courses, recreational centers and YMCA’s, as well as parent/child clinics, which are attracting the much-needed millennial parents into the game.
“With the majority of our students and their parents having never played the game, the parents gain interest and want to play with their children, which becomes a fun family activity,” said Rooney. “We even have parents contacting us about getting lessons, which is great for the future of the game.”
How TGA Is Dramatically Growing the Game
TGA has already brought over 750,000 new golfers into the sport and made the game of golf available to more than 1.5 million families across the country. This includes the states of New York and New Jersey. In addition to Rooney’s franchises in North Westchester (NY) and Bergen Counties (NJ)), TGA also has strong programs in South Westchester and Rockland (NY), as well as Morris, Essex, Union, and Mercer Counties (NJ).
“Growing TGA in Bergen and Westchester Counties has had a significant impact on junior golf in this area,” said Rooney. “Many students who have gone through TGA are now high school golfers, with some of them even coaching the younger kids now for TGA, which has been very rewarding.
“Most importantly, we have expanded the pool of young people and their families who have become vested in the game at such a young age, providing them the opportunity not only to learn the game and get on the golf course as young as six years old but also to learn the proper rules/etiquette of the game that they will take with them the rest of their lives.”
The Entrepreneurial Team of Stuart and Winnie Woody
The husband and wife team of Stuart and Winnie Woody acquired their TGA Premier Golf franchise in Mercer County in 2013. The Woodys are an entrepreneurial team bringing a unique combination of business background and youth sports experience to become part of TGA’s grassroots movement.
“We’re super fortunate with TGA,” said Winnie Woody, “because we have the privilege to do every day what most people can only do on the weekends and on vacation. We’re ambassadors for one of the best life-long sports, and we get to proactively bring the message to the youngest and most energetic future players in our community. Our mission is to use the TGA teaching philosophy—fun with focus and sportsmanship—to make a difference in children’s days, while encouraging them to ‘keep swinging’ for the long term in every area of their lives.”
TGA’s innovative model has empowered entrepreneurs like Rooney and the Woodys to activate and engage thousands of new players at the grassroots level.
How TGA Is Making Its Mark
TGA is making a mark. Entrepreneur Media through its magazine and website has recognized the company as a “Top Low-Cost Franchise” and a “Top-10 Franchise Value,” has included it in The Franchise 500®, and named TGA Premier Golf as one of the Hottest Franchises of 2018.
While conducting programs at schools and community centers, TGA partners with local golf courses and driving ranges (around 225 across the U.S.) to bridge participants from introductory programs to more traditional recreational golf programs such as camps, parent/child events, clinics, and local leagues. In that manner, Jacobs pointed out, the program provides a true player pathway.
“With 70% of our kids and families never having played golf before, we are the base of the pyramid that feeds into all the other areas and initiatives of the game,” Joshua Jacobs explained. “TGA programs are feeding new golfers to Drive, Chip and Putt, Youth on Course, LPGA/USGA Girls Golf, and PGA Junior League. In addition, kids who started with TGA are now playing high school golf and becoming TGA coaches and life-long golfers, all of which is very gratifying to see.”