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Facilities, Opportunities, and Fun: The Three Keys to Success September 18, 2017 By Brianna Do

2011 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links champion and LPGA Tour pro Brianna Do (right) enjoys sharing her knowledge with junior golfers. (USGA/J.D. Cuban)

Brianna Do is the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion and a current member of the LPGA Tour. She recently spent time with junior golfers in her native Southern California at the opening of the Don Knabe Golf Center & Junior Academy, a state-of-the-art facility that hosts several junior golf programs and welcomes beginners who want to learn to play and improve their skills.

On August 9, I took advantage of an opportunity to spend an afternoon with junior golfers, sharing my love for and knowledge of the game. Junior golf was a big part of my childhood, and without the support and guidance of my teachers, instructors and coaches, I wouldn’t have gotten where I am today.

What made this experience particularly special for me was where it took place. I grew up on public golf courses, and the brand-new Don Knabe Golf Center, in Norwalk, Calif., is just 15 minutes from where I grew up in Lakewood. It’s a great model of how public facilities can be an important driver for growth in junior golf.

This state-of-the-art facility, which hosts three Southern California junior programs, includes a driving range, putting and chipping greens that are free to use, and a nine-hole short course with holes ranging from 50 to 100 yards. The driving range has football uprights 150 yards out, as well as other fun targets, and that’s where this new center really gets it. Giving developing golfers the tools to not only elevate their games is critical, but we should emphasize how much fun the game can be.

The course, which I played with the juniors, features lights that allow for nighttime play. For me, between homework, other sports and social activities, there was so much going on while growing up that I had maybe an hour or two to practice after school. The chance to play at night will be huge for juniors who want to take their game to the next level.

That the center is named after Don Knabe is only fitting. Don has always been a huge supporter of both junior golf and public golf in Southern California. I competed several times in his high school event, the Knabe Cup, and when I was coming up, he always made sure we had the opportunities we needed. He’s a prime example of the type of person junior golfers need in their lives if they want to reach their full potential. I grew up playing and practicing at Lakewood Country Club, a public facility where I knew the pro shop staff and the people who ran the golf course. They were like my parents at the golf course in a way, looking after me. Whether it was playing, hitting balls, or hanging out in the pro shop, I was learning life lessons. Everyone at Lakewood treated me like family.  

Not only do junior golfers need access to good public facilities, they can benefit from mentors who grew up with similar opportunities. I began by hitting balls off mats, and I went on to earn a full scholarship to UCLA and win a USGA championship. Those experiences led to earning my LPGA Tour card, and qualifying for multiple U.S. Women’s Opens. Those credentials make me a good ambassador for public golf, and there are others just like me who can serve in that role as well.

Growing up, my parents introduced me to a lot of activities just to keep me off the computer and out of the house. Golf happened to be one of those outdoor activities. Now, many parents are having their kids specialize in golf at an early age. For me, golf became a passion when I became older because I was able to choose golf. Everyone likes to win, but when I’m with junior golfers, I focus on making the game enjoyable because I think that’s what keeps you coming back for the rest of your life.

One of the girls I played with at the event was quite a player for her age, but what stuck with me was that she was having a blast because she was enjoying her time with a friend. Some of my best memories on the golf course include rounds and practice time with my friends, whether I was playing well or poorly, and it’s nice to see that isn’t lost on this upcoming generation.

Between the PLAY9 initiative, junior programs supported by golf associations across the country, facilities like the Don Knabe Golf Center, and an increasing knowledge and enthusiasm for the game, junior golfers have vehicles to do great things in the game, no matter where they grow up.

There are many facilities where you can get involved with golf without knowing anything about the game. They are beginner-friendly and promote golf as a fun outdoor activity that can last a lifetime. There are many people willing to help, and I think it’s such a cool thing to be a part of. Facilities, opportunities and fun: those are the three keys to success!