Greensburg, Ky., is home to 9,323 people, three traffic lights, and nine holes of golf. Now, thanks to an unexpected boost by its local junior golf program, it is also home to one reigning state high school champion girls golf team.
The Green Tee Foundation was organized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2006 by Jim Perkins, a lifelong resident of Greensburg who saw a need to grow the game in the community, especially among young people. “We didn’t start Green Tee to be a feeder program for the high school golf teams,” Perkins says. “We wanted to grow the game at the grassroots level and introduce kids who might not ever have access to the game.”
Perkins first approached the board of Green County Country Club about starting the program. Board member Howard Moore said there was immediate support for Perkins’ idea. “Our board was 110 percent behind him,” said Moore.
Perkins then sought assistance from the USGA through its “For the Good of the Game” Grants Initiative. A $14,000 grant was awarded to help with costs for professional instruction, course access, transportation, golf clubs and bags. Two additional years of USGA support were committed in 2007. According to Perkins, the USGA’s support was vital. “We probably never would have got off the ground if we hadn’t received the grant,” he said.
The program served 43 children that first year and piqued the interest of many community members, including Kate Larimore, a competitive junior golfer and member of the Green County High School golf team.
Larimore, 17, joined the organization as a volunteer instructor and immediately saw the program’s potential to help generate interest in golf among young girls who might someday join the Green County High School team.
Larimore’s instincts were right. Four of the seven members of the Green County girls’ golf team that won the 2009 Kentucky Class A state championship – the school’s first in girls golf – are former participants in the Green Tee Program.
“[The program] brings out kids that have never played before, never even touched a golf club,” she said. “That includes some of the girls who are on our team right now.” Presently, all of the team members are serving as volunteer instructors with the program. The high school boys team has also become involved.
Golf coach Ricky Davis said that Larimore’s involvement in Green Tee was pivotal. “Kate has been the fearless leader of our team. I think working with the younger kids who had never played golf really helped her grow as a leader.”
“I don’t think you could anticipate something like that happening,” said Perkins of the success of the girls’ team. “I anticipated maybe a few kids taking up the game, maybe introducing some families to the game through Green Tee. I never envisioned these young kids taking off the way they have.”
Perkins says that the girls’ state championship win has brought even more interest in golf and the Green Tee program to Greensburg. “I think this has had a ripple effect for the golf club. We don’t have a state championship team in Green County every day. It’s been something that the community has rallied around.”
Perkins also said that the success of the program and the girls’ high school team has been a boon to the golf course, which had struggled financially for several years and seen dwindling participation. The club, which is owned by shareholders in the community (including the Green Tee Foundation), is now operating in the black and has pledged enough financial support to operate the Green Tee program for the next five years.
Moore agrees with Perkins about the program’s broader community impact. “Sometimes in small communities, there is a perception that a country club is off limits to certain people,” he said. “I think the program tore down some of those boundaries. We believe our golf course is there to be used by the community as a whole.”
Laura Erdman is the USGA’s Grants Coordinator. Her work has previously appeared on usga.org.