Changing of Lives Through Golf

For youth across the state, three Minnesota Golf Foundation programs provide more than just access to the game.

October 30, 2023 | 1 min.

MGA members and readers of Minnesota Golfer will be familiar with the three core programs of the Minnesota Golf Foundation (MGF): the oldest program, the Women’s Scholarship; the fastest growing program, Youth on Course Minnesota; and the relatively rookie program, Caddie Development. All three are regularly featured in the pages of this magazine, but they are strikingly different in their approach to improving lives through the game of golf in Minnesota. 

The Minnesota Women’s Scholarship provides a four-year scholarship to qualified candidates. For more than three decades, a network of dedicated volunteers ran events at their local public and private courses to fund the scholarships. Due to a shrinking pool of applicants, the MGF plans to grow awareness and the available dollars to assist more young women attending a college, university or technical school. 

The Caddie Development program provides existing caddie programs at private facilities with best practices and resource support, as well as introducing new caddie programs to public facilities. Its overall objective is to fill the pipeline of future candidates for the Evans Scholars program at the University of Minnesota. Managed by MGA Caddie Development & Communications Manager Jack Mendesh, the initiative has helped launch new caddie programs at Keller Golf Course, Elk River Golf Club and the newest addition at the historic Hiawatha Golf Course in Minneapolis, in partnership with the Bronze Foundation. 

“The difference this program has made in these young people’s lives is what mentoring young people is all about,” says Darwin Dean, president of the Bronze Foundation. “They learned how to interact with adults in a respectful manner and play the great game of golf. This has been a tremendous experience for them and will last for a lifetime.”
 
Youth on Course Minnesota (YOC MN) was introduced in 2017 mainly to overcome one of the game’s strategic barriers to youth: cost. Kids ages 6-18 pay $5 or less at more than 100 golf courses in Minnesota. YOC also provides career exploration and college scholarships. Under the watchful eye of Joel Comstock, YOC MN participation has exploded—this summer set an all-time high membership mark of 15,420 golfers who are forecasted to play 80,000 rounds this year.  

“I love Youth on Course because it allows me access to practice more than I normally would be able to, and it also allows me to golf more with my brother and sister who are also Youth on Course members,” says Waverly Yang, a YOC MN member. “Youth on Course awarded my sister a college scholarship, which has taken a big load off my family.” 

Funding for these highly impactful, life-changing programs comes from individual donors, sales of the Play Golf Minnesota License Plate, special events conducted throughout the year like the Minnesota Golf Show and the 100 Hole Hikes, as well as leveraging relationships of MGA Partners, including SKOR North, Twigs and 2nd Swing Golf.  

The MGF recently took a significant step forward by forming a governing board led by Tom Smith of Brackett’s Crossing CC, and hired its first official foundation director in Matt Magers, a former MGA staffer with extensive experience in donor relations and foundation management. In October, the Foundation board held a strategic planning retreat to develop a road map to achieve the foundation’s mission more successfully over the next three years. Growing the three core programs will remain a priority, in addition to finding new ways for the foundation to change lives through golf. 

To make a gift or learn more about the Minnesota Golf Foundation, visit mngolf.org/foundation or contact Matt Magers, at matt@mngolf.org or 952-927-4653.

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