USGA FOUNDATION
Chip Off the Old Block August 1, 2018 By Jordan Schwartz, USGA

PGA pro Chip Ranco takes a selfie with two of the girls on his PGA Jr. League team at Haworth Country Club. (Chip Ranco photo)

Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)
Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)
Clay Merchent playing his tee shot at the 11th hole during the first round of stroke play of the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. on Monday, July 16, 2018. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Chip Ranco’s dad would ride in a golf cart once a year – on Father’s Day – and even then, it was more of a treat for his sons, who would load their bags on the back.

“He always walked as long as he could,” said Ranco, who also learned a valuable lesson about pace of play growing up in Orono, Maine. “If you continued to swing and hit, that’s fine, but if you swing and miss, you had to pick up and put the ball next to where Dad was. It inspired me not to miss.”

Closing in on nearly three decades as a PGA professional, Ranco is now passing on these pearls of wisdom to his young students.

When he began working at Haworth Country Club in northern New Jersey two years ago, one of the facility’s main goals was to establish a youth program. The first thing Ranco did was start a PGA Jr. League team. He then added clinics and summer camps.

“We’re a private club, but I teach anybody from anywhere,” Ranco said. “I limit the number of kids at each practice, so I can work with them individually and get them to enjoy the game.”

There were 13 golfers on the Jr. League squad last year, but this season, enrollment has grown to 32, 17 of whom are girls. Ranco even created a fall version of the program with six-hole matches instead of nine.

The former University of Maine student-athlete also utilizes the U.S. Kids Golf player pathway program. Students earn a hat pin every time they pass a level.

“You’re taking kids on a journey,” Ranco said. “We also teach them etiquette and hope it transfers over into other parts of their lives. I tell them that when they leave a golf course, it should be in better shape than when they found it.”

Haworth has been very supportive of Ranco’s efforts and based on the success of the youth programs, the club has established a junior membership for the first time. It allows tee times after 2 p.m. and unlimited access to the practice area. Two teenagers have already signed up for one-sixth of what it used to cost to add a child to a family membership.

Hopefully, this inspires more kids to get out on the course with their parents. Golf carts are optional.

Jordan Schwartz is the creative and content lead for the USGA Foundation. Email him at jschwartz@usga.org.