U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Schubert Exemplifies LPGA/USGA Girls' Golf's Success May 28, 2018 By Joey Flyntz, USGA

Sophia Schubert's mother, Delisa, enrolled Sophia in LPGA/USGA Girls' Golf early. Now she's in the Women's Open. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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After Sophia Schubert birdied two of her final three holes in the second round of stroke play in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at San Diego Country Club, she convened with her mother, Delisa, and checked live scoring on her phone. It was early in the day, but mother and daughter agreed that Sophia’s 36-hole total of 4-over-par 148 would be good enough to advance to match play.

Six wins later, the 21-year-old University of Texas student was a national champion with a world of opportunities open to her, including an exemption into this week’s 73rd U.S Women’s Open at Shoal Creek. Like several top female golfers today, Schubert’s ascendance began long before her triumph in San Diego, with her participation in the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program.

Delisa registered Sophia at age 4 for the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program in Knoxville, Tenn., about a 30-minute drive from the family’s home in Oak Ridge. The rest is history that is still being written.

The USGA partners with the LPGA Foundation to bring LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, the country’s flagship junior golf program for girls, to 70,000 girls annually. The program, which has locations in more than 450 communities in the U.S., instills confidence, enriches lives and prepares girls for a lifetime of enjoyment of the game. Girls Golf has seen exponential growth in recent years and the USGA is committed to help expand the program and increase girls’ participation in golf across North America.

“LPGA-USGA Girls Golf made the game fun for me and provided competition at a young age,” said Schubert. “Seeing progress in myself kept me wanting to play more. I also remember going to an LPGA Tour event with our group of girls. Watching the women play inspired me to continue to work hard.”

Some of the players Schubert watched at that LPGA Tour event could have been Girls Golf alumni, as Schubert is simply the latest name on an impressive list of players involved with the program. Fellow U.S. Women’s Amateur champions Morgan Pressel (2005), Amanda Blumenherst (2008) and Hannah O’Sullivan (2016) participated in the program. Additionally, five LPGA Tour stars serve as national spokeswomen for LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, including major champions Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome, as well as two-time U.S Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Tiffany Joh and Lizette Salas. And in 2017, alumnae or current members of LPGA-USGA Girls Golf combined to secure 133 berths in USGA championships, including 13 at the U.S. Women’s Open.

LPGA/USGA Girls' Golf makes the game fun for young girls, through fun games, but also helps them grow off the course. (USGA/Chris Keane)

However, LPGA-USGA Girls Golf is not primarily focused on producing the next wave of superstars. The program was founded in 1989 by Sandy LaBauve, an LPGA & PGA Teaching Professional. LaBauve learned the game from her parents – Sherry, a good amateur golfer, and Jack Lumpkin, a renowned PGA professional. The two used fun drills to get Sandy interested in the family pastime. LaBauve followed her mother’s model and incorporated it into a fledgling program called the Junior Girls Golf Club. Believing that kids learn best by playing games, LaBauve introduced newcomers to fun formats of play such as team scrambles, night golf and throwing out bad scores. The formula worked, and in the 1990s, with the help of the USGA and then-president Judy Bell, the program flourished and has since significantly expanded to the current form we see today, with multiple locations in every state.

There is no concrete pattern to an LPGA-USGA Girls Golf clinic. Each individual program is customized to allow leaders to determine how to best engage the girls based on the number and age of participants and the specific region. Activities vary from range drills, putting fundamentals and on-course instruction to outside-the-box games such as hitting marshmallows out of bunkers, trying to hit pitch shots into the mouths of inflatable creatures and tic-tac-toe putting games. And the experience is about more than golf skills. The program aims to provide girls with social interaction and improve self-esteem through an active lifestyle. After all, the vast majority of participants will play golf for the pure love of the game, rather than aspiring to the highest level of competition. In that way, the lessons learned in the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf environment will pay dividends down the road.

“Golf is a game where you can learn a lot about yourself, gain friendships and learn life lessons that will not only help you on the golf course but off as well,” said Schubert. “Golf can be frustrating and challenging, but it’s a wonderful game that provides young girls with great opportunities for their future.”

Investing in today’s youth is an important step in ensuring a fruitful future for golf. Through its support of programs such as Girls Golf; Drive, Chip & Putt; and The First Tee, the USGA helped countless youngsters discover the joys of the game in 2017.

“We know there are many pathways into the game for juniors and beginners at all levels, and we should celebrate all of them,” said Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA. “What we love about our work with LPGA-USGA Girls Golf is the program’s ability to connect young golfers within communities, instill values that go beyond the course, and make golf fun. We know more girls will stay in the game for a lifetime by getting a great start, and this joint effort is clearly showing great results.”

Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at jflyntz@usga.org

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