CHAMPIONS
Johnny Miller Champions Nine-Hole Rounds for Kids May 9, 2016 | FAR HILLS, N.J. By David Chmiel, USGA

Johnny Miller says his success in golf, especially winning the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur, was the result of having fun while learning the game. (Courtesy/USGA)

Johnny Miller is glad to reminisce about the final-round 63 that earned him the 1973 U.S. Open title at Oakmont Country Club. He is equally quick to mention that his once-in-a-lifetime round was the result of playing golf as a junior.

“I was 26 when I won the Open,” said Miller. “But I never would have become the ball-striker that I was if I didn’t have the opportunity to spend so much time on the golf course as a kid.”

A 1998 World Golf Hall of Fame inducteehallenged a group of USGA Members to be the catalyst for nurturing children’s interest in the game.

“Golf is so much fun for you, so make it fun for kids,” said Miller. “I know you parents out there are working hard, often mom and dad, so it’s tough to devote the time to teach your kids to play. But get out there and play nine holes with them when you can. Better yet, all you grandparents, pick up the grandkids after school and take them to play nine holes with you. It is a cool way to connect with your grandkids and to share your love for golf. You can play nine holes, then chip and putt, get some ice cream and have a great afternoon. Next thing you know, they will want to play nine holes again with you and then they will turn into golfers.”

Miller, the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, said he witnessed what the stress of competition at the highest level of junior golf could do to competitors and their parents and emphasized the need for making the game fun and interesting for children. He said he has never forgotten a bitter exchange between a father and a son after the teenager lost a match.

“His dad really let him have it… I just felt so bad for him because he was a great kid,” said Miller. “Kids can get really good with parents who are really hard on them and they can get there when their parents make it a really positive experience. The game is finally cool now. With Jordan [Spieth] and Rickie [Fowler] and Rory [McIlroy] and Jason [Day] and other superstar athletes who love golf, we have a chance to get kids into golf. So do anything you can to help them enjoy the game forever, not just because you want them to win a championship when they are kids.”

David Chmiel is manager of USGA Member content. Contact him at dchmiel@usga.org.