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World Junior Girls Event in Canada First Step for U.S. National Development Program

By Julia Pine, USGA

| Sep 6, 2023 | Pinehurst, N.C.

Representing your country in an international competition is one of the highest honors for any elite golfer. (USGA/Chris Keane)

The USGA has announced that three players will make history when they compete under the USA flag as part of the U.S. National Development Program (USNDP) at the World Junior Girls Championship, which will be played Oct. 4-7 in Ontario, Canada. This marks just one of several milestones the USGA’s newest program has crossed since its creation in February.

“These first selections are a momentous point in the history of junior golf in the United States and create a trail that generations of golfers will be able to follow in the future,” said Heather Daly-Donofrio, USGA managing director, Player Relations and Development. “For too long the United States has lagged in the nurturing of junior golf talent. The USNDP will help ensure that the United States is the global leader in golf by identifying, training, developing, funding and supporting the nation’s most promising junior players.”

The three players chosen to represent the USNDP team in Canada include Molly Brown Davidson, 17, of Springville, Ala.; Mia Hammond, 15, of New Albany, Ohio; and Chloe Kovelesky, 16, of Boca Raton, Fla. While the search for a full-time head coach for the USNDP continues, major champion Mo Martin will join the team in Canada as a coach to provide the players with an invaluable perspective on what it takes to compete at the highest level. She will also accompany the USA Team to the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship taking place in Abu Dhabi Oct. 25-28.

“I am deeply honored to coach the teams at the World Junior Girls Championship and the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship,” said Martin, the 2014 Women’s British Open champion. “I am committed to seeing the growth and development of our young players, and am excited to bring my knowledge and experience to help guide them to a successful week and beyond. I am humbled by the opportunity to pass on the gifts that golf has given me to the next generation of players, and to represent the U.S., which has given me so much.”

Scott Langley, the USGA’s senior director of player relations, will accompany the USA Team for the men’s World Amateur Team Championship Oct. 18-21 in Abu Dhabi in a coaching capacity. Courtney Myhrum, a member of the USGA Executive Committee, will serve as captain of the women’s team, while USGA Past President Mark Newell will captain the men’s team.

Announced in February, the U.S. National Development Program is designed to ensure that American golf is the global leader in the game by focusing on six key pillars: talent identification, access to competition, national teams, athlete resources, player development and relations, and athlete financial support.

The program utilizes existing American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events as part of a pathway for players to progress from state- and regional-level competition to USGA championships. Over the summer, the USNDP placed 30 junior golfers into AJGA events, including Charles Nelson, of Dallas, Texas, who took full advantage of the opportunity by winning the Under Armour® / Jordan Spieth Championship presented by Invited. The partnership with the AJGA also includes development sessions at select events (two in 2023 with several more in 2024) that will feature an overview of the USNDP, an introduction to USNDP staff and engagement with LPGA and PGA Tour players who will share their personal journeys in junior golf.

These sessions will be led by Beth Brown, who was recently named the senior player development adviser of the USNDP. Brown has a diverse background in golf, including playing at the University of Oklahoma, professionally on the Epson Tour and coaching at the University of Kansas where she earned her Ph.D. in education (sports psychology). She also spent 15 years at The First Tee, where she served as the managing director, chapter program & research. 

“It’s incredibly exciting to take on this role and be involved in such an impactful program from the ground up,” said Brown. “My experience both as an American golfer and coach, as well as working within the junior golf ecosystem, allows me to understand the need for a unified and supportive program for our young golfers. I look forward to utilizing my experience and collaborating with others here at the USGA and across the industry to build just that.”

As senior player development adviser, Brown will focus on player development, coach curricula, parent education, talent identification and player development plans for grant recipients. She will also drive the overall competitive and developmental structure (local, state, regional, national) to give athletes a clear pathway to progress from competitive junior golf through the professional game.