JPGA Prides Itself on Facilities, Low Student-to-Teacher Ratio

IMG has David Leadbetter. The International Junior Golf Academy has Hank Haney. Other academies have Gary Gilchrist and Jim McLean.

The Junior Players Golf Academy on Hilton Head Island doesn’t have such a name on its door.

“Unfortunately for a lot of kids and parents, it’s all about the name,” JPGA owner Keith Bach said. “But a lot of times, those names aren’t the ones teaching your kid. We’re not going to tell you that your kid is going to be taught by X, Y or Z and then that person is not here. I tell people to visit the other academies and compare apples to apples.”

With access to seven of Hilton Head Island’s top golf courses, posh living quarters close to the beach and schooling at prestigious Hilton Head Preparatory, Bach knows other academies have a tough time matching the apples in his bushel.

That’s why students from all over the globe choose to attend his boutique academy. Countries represented in the 2012-2013 class are Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Spain, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and Canada

“It’s about 60 percent international and 40 percent U.S. this year,” Bach said. “Usually it’s about 50-50. It’s nice having the different cultures in the housing and on the golf course. It gives students a chance to learn life lessons and meet kids from all over the world.”

The full-time academy is a nine-month program split into two semesters. The first semester started Aug. 15 and will run through Dec. 20. Following the Christmas break, the second semester will start Jan. 7 and run through May 25.
Students hit the golf course after school each day, gearing up for weekend tournaments. The JPGA offers its students the opportunity to play in nationally ranked events across the Southeast. Unlike many other academies, though, tour play is included in the cost of tuition.

“That’s a big part of it,” Bach said. “You train throughout the week to be prepared for the weekend to play tournament golf. That’s how you’re going to build your resume, get the exposure and hopefully get a college scholarship.”

Several students already have.

Juliet Vongphoumy, from Rhode Island, got a full scholarship to Maryland. This year she finished as the Terps’ all-time season scoring average leader (73.72) and earned All-ACC honors.

Momo Sakuragi, from Japan, signed a full golf scholarship with Rollins College earlier this year. Equador native Felipe Benalcazar got a scholarship to Trinity University and Bluffton’s Courtney Boe got a scholarship to Coastal Carolina.
The full-time academy started with just four students in 2007. That number grew to 14 in 2008 then jumped to 24 in 2009. Enrollment has leveled off the past two years at around 24 students. This year’s enrollment is 28 students. With seven instructors, the JPGA has a teacher-to-student ratio of 4-to-1. The ratio for an average academy is 8-to-1.

“If you have a high student-to-teacher ratio, you’re not going to have that individualized instruction,” Bach said. “When you have a more intimate setting, it’s more like a team environment instead of just a big school. All the kids get along well and have great relationships.”

Most of the JPGA’s operation is located on Beach City Road. For housing, the academy built five cottages in 2010, the Mitchelville Golf Cottages, just down the street from JPGA headquarters and Palmetto Hall Golf Club.
Students have access to play all seven courses the Heritage Golf Group owns and manages at Palmetto Hall, Port Royal, Shipyard and Oyster Reef.

In addition to its full-time academy, the JPGA also offers an all-golf and TPI Fitness, (Titleist Performance Institute) post graduate program designed for players who recently graduated high school. There are also several holiday programs and camps each year.

“We’re helping you with the game you bring to us, not one teaching method for all students,” Bach said. “We’ll make you better through a lot of playing, practicing and hard work.”

What: Junior Players Golf Academy
Where: Palmetto Hall, Hilton Head Island
The skinny: Offers full-time programs, a post-graduate program, summer and holiday camps and programs
More information: Call 843-686-3355 or go online to


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