In latest move for growth, U.S. National Development Program launches Junior State Teams

The United States Golf Association announced Wednesday the creation of a state team pilot program that will expand the pipeline for elite junior golfers into the recently created U.S. National Development Program (USNDP). Seven states will participate in the initial phase, with the goal of all states having a team by 2033.

The first seven participants are California (Southern), Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Ohio and Tennessee. The program will come to fruition through close collaboration between the USGA, its allied golf associations, the PGA of America and relevant state junior programs.

“This first-of-its-kind state team program will serve as a critical part of the talent identification pathway for the USNDP and provide more opportunities for a diverse population of athletes to receive resources and guidance to compete at the highest levels of the game,” said Heather Daly-Donofrio, USGA managing director, of Player Relations and Development, in a release. “Additionally, the opportunity to represent their home state will incentivize each region’s best junior golfers to play more in-state competitions, ultimately strengthening the junior golf programming across the country.”

The seven selected states participating in this initial pilot program will each establish a committee consisting of representatives from major golf organizations within the state, including any AGAs and PGA of America sections. The state committees will oversee team selection criteria and the operation of the state program based on guidelines provided by the USGA. Team selection criteria will vary by state and may consist of a points structure, ranking or combination of other competitive factors. Selection criteria from all seven states will be published before the entry deadline of the first counting event of their 2024 championship season.

State team roster sizes will be calculated by elite junior participation in the state, ranging from a minimum of two boys and two girls to a maximum of 20 boys and 20 girls.

To be eligible to compete on a state team in 2024, a player must be a U.S. citizen. Each eligible player must be 13 years old by Jan. 1, 2025, have not reached their 19th birthday by July 19, 2025, and cannot be enrolled in college for the 2024-25 school year. An official Handicap Index is also required.

Announced in February of 2023, the USNDP 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 state team program will focus on creating a developmentally appropriate, aspirational pathway for athletes within each state to compete at higher levels of the game, including an opportunity to represent the United States as a member of the USNDP’s National Team led by former Pepperdine associate head coach Chris Zambri.

“The state team program will allow us to leverage the expertise and local knowledge of the regional and state junior golf programs to ensure that all golfers with the appropriate skill have an equitable opportunity to pursue their dreams,” Zambri said in the release.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek