Three of the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation’s former juniors, Aaron Robinson, Aaron Grimes and Gabriel Cruz—all of whom are now professional golfers—mingled with the current juniors during the day.
Sixteen-year-old junior Zebulon “Zeb” Barnes returned to playing golf this past year after taking a seven-year break to focus on basketball and recently shot his lowest round to date at 75. He currently serves as a volunteer coach in the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation’s Player & Youth Development program at Alondra Golf Course in Lawndale. These kids may well look up to Barnes, just as he does Robinson, whom he got to know on Saturday.
“It was awesome talking to him,” Barnes said. “He told me about his backstory and how he got into golf. It’s awesome that I’m a part of this organization where a lot of PGA players and college players got their start. It’s an honor to be connected to all of them.”
The introduction meant just as much to Robinson.
“It’s pretty overwhelming in a very positive way,” Robinson said. “You never know which kid is looking. I hit a shot and then I met Zeb right here and he was like, ‘What’s your Instagram? You guys are valid.’ Just seeing how my game and sticking to it is perceived by the juniors who are looking, inspires me to stay on my A game and inspire the next person.”
Robinson emphasized the importance of events like Saturday’s in helping “youth get into golf and finding out that it’s a game for everyone to learn and get better at.”
“Today was cool. It’s not over-the-top professional,” Robinson said. “It’s just ‘Hey, you want to learn some golf? Come out.’ That’s the most important theme of the game now. Breaking down those barriers of difficult and expensive and opening the door for people to come see if it’s a game for them.”
In his introductory comments, Jain founder Chris Hovsepian addressed the roughly 200 people in attendance, lauding the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation as an “incredible program and platform for Southern California dedicated to giving our youth a safe space to learn golf and ultimately what this game can teach them about life.” He then asked all the juniors in attendance to stand up and led the crowd in applauding them. Next, Hovsepian introduced SCGA Junior Golf Foundation Executive Director Kevin Gigax.
“Chris speaks our language,” Gigax said. “The SCGA (Junior Golf Foundation) is about how do we create community for kids to thrive on and beyond the course. What we’re thinking of is access and opportunity. When we raise money for SCGA Junior, it’s about what are all the obstacles that exist so that any kid in any community in Southern California has the opportunity to play golf. We really appreciate Jain’s partnership in this and are excited for a fun day.”
After the enthusiastic crowd assembled for a photo, the group was divided into two for a pair of contests each alternated competing in.
For the putting contest, all the participants made a circle around the putting green, each putting a golf ball marked with their initials on it. In the water balloon toss, everyone chose a partner and took turns lobbing their water balloon back and forth, taking a large step back after each successful attempt to make the next more difficult.
After a lunch break, during which many campers hit balls in the dedicated TopGolf bays, got their faces painted and socialized, the entire group reassembled for a spirited closest-to-the-hole competition.
Each contingent of campers was led throughout the day by a pair of “camp counselors,” with SCGA Junior shepherded by Bradford Wilson, the host of the SCGA’s Bradford Plays video series and Kaycee Wilke, the Junior Foundation’s Player & Youth Development Director.
Wilson, who hails from southern New Jersey, said he “jumped at the chance” to be involved in the Foundation as an adult, as nothing like it existed for kids where he grew up.
“To be a part of something like this, really gives back to myself,” Wilson said. “I’m down with whatever Jain wants to do in the future. Especially to benefit SCGA Junior, that’s where my heart is.”
Alysa Davis, who turns 16 next month, was one of the juniors who attended Camp Jain.
“I like supporting SCGA Junior because they’ve given me a lot of opportunities to play different events, so I always try to support this organization that’s done so much for me,” Davis said. “This event was great. The games were fun, the food was good and I always enjoy TopGolf.”