Golden days ahead for GSJGA

Wendi Golden remembers growing up playing at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta Junior Golf Association events. "Back then East Lake wasn't in what you would call the good side of town," she said.

How times have changed for East Lake and Golden. The 37-year-old mother of two daughters recently accepted the position as executive director of the Greater Sarasota Junior Golf Association.  The upscale East Lake is now the home of the PGA Tour Championship.

 "I played three different sports until I was 12," she said. "That's when my parents told me to pick a sport and stick with it."

She chose golf and it has been a big part of her life ever since.

That's the dilemma Golden faces as the new director of the GSJGA --- trying to get youngsters to choose golf and hang with it.

Like everywhere else in the golf world, the numbers are down in junior programs.

Over the years, the Greater Sarasota Junior Golf Association has provided the starting blocks for such touring pros as Paul Azinger, Scott Dunlap and Joey Lamielle.

But that was before Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets became in vogue.

"The numbers are decreasing," she said. "We would love to see some growth.  I want to make sure the kids are not missing the opportunity to play in a great environment."

Golden actually plans to use the social media such as Facebook and Twitter to help attract junior golfers.

She certainly has the credentials and the experience of working with youngsters.

In 1992, Golden, then Wendi Patterson, was the American Junior Golf Association female player representative. Tiger Woods was the male rep.

After graduating from high school, she walked on at the University of Tennessee and became the No. 1 player.  After one year at Tennessee, she turned pro and played on the Futures and LPGA Tours.

Recently, Golden has been the girls coach at Sarasota Christian, Braden River and Lakewood Ranch high schools.

After regaining her amateur status in 2006, she climbed to No. 1 in the 2009 women's rankings in the state of Florida.

Her next challenge is to help make the GSJGA the top priority for junior golfers.  

It won't be an easy task but she is working with a great team in president Chris Souchak and a plethora of pros volunteering their time to take the kids to the next level.


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