AJGA Basics
Understanding Performance Based Entry
Are you ready for the AJGA?
Getting Started with the AJGA
Cost of the AJGA

 

The Big Daddy. The Big Kahuna. Yes indeed, The Hub’s about to dive into none other than the American Junior Golf Association – AJGA. Fasten your seatbelts.

Before we start let’s get a few things on the table (Warning: Bias alert).

Here at The Hub, we are unabashed fans of the AJGA. We think they put on the most professional, well run junior golf tournaments in the world. Period. It’s a first-class junior tour that stands out in a world filled with junior golf tours.

We believe so much in the AJGA that we sponsor their Preview Series events, which is an entry door to the AJGA for hundreds of talented junior players each year.

Just consider the roster of PGA and LPGA players who came through the AJGA:

PGA Tour: Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Davis Love III, Rickie Fowler, Daniel Berger, Stewart Cink, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Harris English, Bob Estes, Jim Furyk, Lucas Glover, Bill Haas, Russell Henley, Morgan Hoffmann, J.B. Holmes, Charles Howell III, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Justin Leonard, Hunter Mahan, Steve Marino, Ryan Moore, Sean O’Hair, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, Scott Stallings, David Toms, Gary Woodland, and Scott Verplank.

LPGA Tour: Paula Creamer, Katie Futcher, Julieta Granada, Pat Hurst, Vicky Hurst, Jennifer Johnson, Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, Cristie Kerr, I.K. Kim, Brittany Lang, Stacy Lewis, Alison Lee, Brittany Lincicome, Paige Mackenzie, Kristy McPherson, Inbee Park, Morgan Pressel and Wendy Ward.

Not too bad (ok we really mean – are you kidding me?)

Even better yet, many of these luminaries actively sponsor events and show up at the events to greet players and parents. Photo-op time!

 

AJGA Winners past and present

 

There is just one problem. Navigating the AJGA for the first time can be a bit tricky. Especially for first-timers. The list of questions we hear goes something like this:

 

How do I know if I’m ready for the AJGA?
What are the different types of events?
When do you recommend I start?
How does the AJGA work?
What is Performance Based Entry?
How does Performance Based Entry work?
How much will it cost?
What are the types of events?

 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, indeed there are lots of questions when it comes to the AJGA.  And get ready because The Hub is about to cover lots of ground here!

Lastly, note we are going to cover all the above in a multi-part series of blog posts. In this post, we are going to start with the basics including understanding the types of events on the AJGA schedule.

Onward!

 

AJGA Basics

The AJGA conducts tournaments for talented junior players aged 12-19 across the United States and a small number of international locations.

In 2017, the AJGA conducted 120+ tournaments and is set for a similar level in 2018.

There are five types of tournaments on the AJGA roster:

Open Events (O)
Invitationals (I)
Preview Series (P)
Junior All-Stars (J)
Senior Showcase (S)

 

The type of event is marked on the AJGA’s schedule next to the tournament name.

AJGA Tournament Schedule

 

Let’s understand each type of event further.

Open Events:
  • Open to all AJGA members
  • Largest single category of event with 65+ per year (~60% of AJGA schedule)
  • Uses Performance Based Entry and field sorted by number of Performance Stars
  • Most events include one-day Qualifiers
  • Able to play in up to five Open events

 

Invitationals:
  • Require an invitation to participate
  • Fifteen Invitationals currently scheduled for 2018
  • Entry criteria varies but most common is player position in Rolex AJGA Rankings
  • Often have marquee sponsors like Annika Sorenstam, Shanshan Feng, Stacy Lewis, the Haas family and blue-chip companies like Rolex, Wyndham, and Polo

 

Junior Golf Hub Preview Series Events:
  • Designed for junior golfers who have never played in an AJGA event before
  • 15 events including 4 events that are designed specifically for players aged 12-15
  • No Performance Based Entry
  • Applicants accepted by graduation year (seniors first, then juniors, sophomores etc.)
  • Hub team attends every event. Make sure you say hi to us at our booth!

 

ACDS Junior All-Star Series Events:
  • Tournaments for AJGA members aged 12-15
  • 20 events in the 2018 schedule
  • Uses Performance Based Entry for event acceptance
  • Most events include one-day Qualifiers
  • Able to play in up to four ACDS Junior All-Star events

 

Senior Events:   
  • Designed for unsigned graduating seniors
  • Two main showcase events: one in February and another in December
  • Uses Performance Based Entry
  • Note: The December event has the benefit of being commensurate with the Golf Coaches Association of America conference in Las Vegas and is well attended by college golf coaches

 

For those of you who prefer this in table form: here you go!

AJGA Qualifiers

Also, note that most Opens and ACDS Junior All-Star events include Qualifiers. These are one-day events scheduled a day before the tournament starts that allow players to earn their way into the field through solid play. To find events with Qualifiers, check out the AJGA’s tournament page and look for the Q symbol next to the tournament name:

Keep in mind there is no limit to the number of Qualifiers you can play in!

 

Event Limit in the AJGA

All good things have limits and the AJGA is no exception. AJGA members are limited to a combined total of five Open and Junior All-Star events per year (with a maximum of four Junior All-Star events per season). Preview Series and Invitational events do not count towards this limit.

There you have it. A few basics on the AJGA and help navigating the schedule. Now, let’s dive deep into the belly of the beast: Performance Based Entry!

 

Understanding Performance Based Entry

What is Performance Based Entry (PBE)?

Essentially PBE means you will have to earn your way into most AJGA tournaments. It won’t be given to you. PBE is a fact of AJGA life and like it or not we better learn to live with it.

‘Demand not that things happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do, and you will go on well.” –Epictetus

Ok, but how do I earn my way into an event?

Simply put, you will need to earn Performance Stars. Think of Performance Stars as currency to pay your way into AJGA events. The more Performance Stars you accumulate, the better the chance you have to get into an AJGA event. And like currency, you lose the stars after getting into an event meaning you’ll have to earn more again. Kind of like real life.  Earn money, spend money, earn money, spend money.

 

How to accumulate Performance Stars

 

There are four different ways to accumulate Performance Stars:

1. Sign up for the AJGA

Just by signing up for the AJGA you are guaranteed at least one Performance Star (technically this is called a Membership Star and has the benefit that you cannot lose it during the year). Sophomores and seniors get one additional (two total) and Juniors get two additional (three total).

 

2. Earn through solid play in Qualifiers

Note that you can also receive Stars by playing well in Qualifiers. There are Qualifiers both at Open events and Junior All-Star events. For example, here is the Performance Star count for Qualifiers in the 2018 schedule:

 

 

3. Play well in an AJGA event

The quickest way to earn a substantial amount of Performance Stars is to play well in an AJGA event. For example, the 2018 Callaway Golf Junior Championship, an open tournament, awards the following Performance Stars based on finish:

 

 

Now that’s what we’re talking about!  Play great = load up on Performance Stars.

 

Keep in mind that the number of Performance Stars up for grabs differs by type of event. Junior Golf Hub Preview Series events have different counts than ACDS Junior All-Star events than Open events. To find out how many Performance Stars are associated with an event – check out the main page of the tournament and look at the PBE Status.

 

Best of all? Playing well in an AJGA event can move you closer to the holy grail of junior golf:  Fully Exempt status. This means you have first priority into AJGA events. Kind of like being exempt on the PGA Tour – not bad!  And the best news? Fully Exempt status lasts for your current season and the following season as well!

 

4. Play well in select non-AJGA events

The AJGA also allows you to earn Performance Stars by playing well in select non-AJGA events. Sounds great! But what events? The AJGA lists the events on its website under the PBE Map section.

The amount of Performance Stars that you can earn from non-AJGA events differs by the type of event.  For other junior tours (Hurricane Tour, IMG) it’s common for the champion of an event to be awarded 1 – 4 Performance Stars with additional Performance Stars given to top finishers (top 10%, or top 5). The formula is different for each event which is why it’s important to pore through the PBE map to understand events with a rich payoff if you play well.

Also, keep in mind that the AJGA will stockpile Performance Stars for you that have been earned in the last calendar year prior to you becoming a member. Not bad! These Stars are only available once you join the AJGA.

So, there you have it. Four main ways to earn AJGA Performance Stars.

One last note on PBE. Remember we mentioned above that you ’spend’ Performance Stars by being accepted into an event. In fact, you ‘spend’ four Performance Stars when accepted into an Open event and one for an ACDS Junior All-Star event. No Performance Stars are spent for Preview Series and Senior events.

Stop the presses though.

How many Performance Stars does it take to get into an event? 

For starters, it depends on the type of event you are talking about. For example, Preview Series events are open to anyone (no Performance Stars necessary) and Invitationals are not PBE based.

That leaves us two main classes of tournaments:  Open events and Junior-All Star events.

Here’s a quick rundown of the number of Performance Stars needed for Junior All-Star and Open events in the 2017 season:

Junior All-Star Events:  2017

Performance Stars required for entry in Junior-All Star events last year

Open Events:  2017

And here is a similar table showing the number of Performance Stars needed for Open events in 2017:

 

Lots of numbers!

Before we get too far let’s make sure to understand these Performance Star counts change every year. They are not fixed or static. This is just for the 2017 schedule and counts for 2018 could be different (we explain why below).

That being said here are a few lessons from our table above:

 

1. Many Open Events require high Performance Star counts 

The average number of Performance Stars to enter an Open event in 2017 for Boys was 17 and 19 for Girls.

Considering you only get a few Performance Stars for joining the AJGA, that can be a high bar. Of course, these figures are just averages and there is wide variability by the event which is what we’ll cover next.

 

 2. Number of  Performance Stars required varies widely by event

Looking at our table above it’s obvious that the number of Performance Stars for an Open event varies widely. Why? There are a few key drivers including field size, time of year, state/region, and gender. Let’s go through each one.

Field Size: Events with smaller field sizes tend to have larger Performance Star counts as well. Basic economics again, when the supply of spots is limited, the number of Stars go up! Note the restriction in field size is often limited by the time of year (less daylight) or course restrictions.

Time of year: Events at the beginning or end of a season often have higher Performance Star counts than mid-season events. Why? A few reasons. First, at the beginning of the season, the AJGA lets you carry over Performance Stars from the previous year into the following season. This creates an effect where players have stockpiled Performance Stars from the previous year for use in the early season events. End of season events (post-Labor Day) can have higher Performance Star counts as well as players have had a full season to earn (and then use) Performance Stars. Lastly, both early season and late season events may have smaller field sizes due to shorter days and less daylight.

State or region: Performance Star counts also vary depending on the state and the number of events in the state or surrounding area. For example, in 2017 California held eight Open events, with average Performance Star Count for boys of 21 and 22 for girls. Vermont held one event with a Star count of 6 for boys, 6 for girls. Quite a difference!

GenderNote that the average Performance Star count for Girls is higher than Boys. This is largely because girls who make the cut in an Open event are awarded four Performance Stars versus a corresponding number of two for boys.

 

3. Multiple opportunities for lower Performance Star events

It’s possible to actively seek out events that will land at lower Performance Star counts but to do so you’ll need a bit of guidance. Our Hub analysis shows the two vital drivers for Performance Star counts at an event are (a) time of year and (b) field size.

Consider the table below which shows entry Performance Star counts during the summer of 2017 (Memorial Day to Labor Day) with final field sizes greater than 100.

 

Jackpot!

A veritable feast of lower Performance Star count events.

The lesson? If you are at the lower end of the Performance Star count totem pole consider seeking out (a) summer events with (b) larger field sizes (preferably >90+). Try to find events close to your house. If not, get the travel bag ready.

 

4. Junior All-Star events often require fewer Stars than Opens

Just glancing through our tables above it becomes clear that Junior All-Star events, in general, require fewer Performance Stars than Open events. This is because there are fewer opportunities for the players to earn Performance Stars at this level both at the AJGA and on the PBE map.

One final note.  The AJGA is extremely helpful when it comes to navigating their members to events that may be right for them. Give them a call if you have questions!

Are you ready for the AJGA?

A question we always get asked is ‘Am I ready for the AJGA?’

Good question! Here at The Hub, we like to assess ‘readiness’ in two different ways:

 

1. Competitiveness in Regional tours

Our Hub Philosophy as it relates to tournament scheduling is Crawl, Walk, Run. Meaning first play in Local events (one-day events close to your home), progress to Regional events (36-hole+ events pulling from a statewide or regional field) and then National events (36-hole+ events pulling from the entire country or world).

You progress to the next level when you are either (a) winning or (b) very competitive at the previous level. Kind of like a video game. So, the first barometer to considering the AJGA is asking yourself a few good questions like:

  • How competitive am I at the Regional level?
  • Have I won an event? Or placed top 5 or top 10 in multiple events?
  • Do I have a solid track record? Not just one or two good rounds.

If you can answer these questions in the affirmative, then you may be ready for the next level! If not, time to pause and reconsider whether the AJGA is right for you.

 

2. By the cold hard numbers

The AJGA also publishes the scoring average ranges by gender and type of event on its website. Here is a summary!

 

This is a treasure trove of information and tells us precisely what it takes to compete on the biggest stage in junior golf. Let’s distill it together.

Remember that to give the AJGA a run you are going to need to accumulate Performance Stars. No Performance Stars = No Entry. We also know that the best path to earning Performance Stars is to play in one-day Qualifiers. Finishing in the top 50% of the Qualifier field gives you a Performance Star.

 

Given that we can now establish the following parameters to consider the AJGA:

Boys need to be able to consistently shoot:
  • 78 – 79 or lower
  • At target yardages (~6,800 for Open, ~6,600 for Junior All-Star)
  • Under National tournament pressure
  • On competitive golf courses
Girls need to be able to consistently shoot:
  • 80 – 81 or lower
  • At target yardages
  • Under National tournament pressure
  • On competitive golf courses

Consider these as entry parameters. If you are not in this range, you will be unable to earn enough Performance Stars to even qualify for future events, meaning you have little chance at progressing through the AJGA or playing in enough events.

Of course, you still might participate for the experience of competing at the next level and testing your mettle against better players or to use as information on where you stack up versus the competition. Just recognize that it may be difficult for you to compete regularly due to Performance Based Entry.

One other factor to consider is age. Of course, if you are 12 years old shooting 78 it’s a different story than if you are 17. Take that into account when you are considering the sample parameters above.

 

And here are the parameters to progress within the AJGA:

Boys need to be able to consistently shoot:
  • 76 or lower
  • At target yardages (~6,800 for Open, ~6,600 for Junior All-Star)
  • Under National tournament pressure
  • On competitive golf courses
Girls need to be able to consistently shoot:
  • 76 – 77 or lower
  • At target yardages
  • Under National tournament pressure
  • On competitive golf courses

Based on the table above, if you meet these criteria it means you will be able to (a) qualify for events and (b) earn Performance Stars after playing in the events. You may not be at the top of the Rolex AJGA Rankings but you’re competitive enough to earn the currency that will allow you to pay your way into AJGA events.

 

Getting Started with the AJGA

Next, let’s go through some practical advice on where to start after joining the AJGA. When you are ready to set sail after joining the AJGA, the first thing to check is your age. Simply put, the path you take will depend on how old you are. The AJGA has a great video of this on their website. Here’s a recap of the key steps:

 

Age 16+

1. Play in a Preview Series event

Playing in a Preview Series is a great entry point into the AJGA. Given there are no Performance Star requirements it’s an opportunity to have a great chance to play in an AJGA event, test your game against the better peers in your region, and a great opportunity to earn Performance Stars you can cash in during the rest of the season.

Sounds good! Also, the Preview Series fields are sorted by graduation year, meaning juniors and seniors have a great shot at getting into the event of their choice.

 

2. Play in Open Qualifiers near you

Qualifiers are a great way for an AJGA member to get started for a wide range of reasons including:

  • You can earn Performance Stars (top 50% of the field earns at least one Star)
  • There is no limit to the number of Qualifiers you can play in
  • If you qualify, you have the opportunity to earn more Performance Stars

We recommend you take a good look through the AJGA schedule at the beginning of the year and target playing in Qualifiers within a reasonable driving distance (Mom and Dad get the car warmed up!).

 

3. Play in non-AJGA events on PBE Map

Remember that you can still earn AJGA stars at non-AJGA events. To that end, we recommend you filter through the AJGA PBE Map to find events in your area or region that qualify for PBE and then orient your Regional tournament schedule towards some of these events if possible. And then, of course, play well!

 

 

Age 12 – 15

The young guns of the AJGA have a slightly different path than the older junior players. In fact, there is a whole series of events (ACDS Junior All-Star) which cater to this age demographic. Here are our Hub tips for navigating the AJGA as a young gun:

 

1. Play in Junior All-Star Qualifiers

There are 20 events on the AJGA schedule in 2018 specifically devoted to the 12 – 15 age bracket (ACDS Junior All-Star Events). Of these, 17 have Qualifiers. These qualifiers are a terrific opportunity to earn Stars that can get you into other Junior All-Star events.

 

2. Apply for a Junior Golf Hub Preview Series event (12 – 15)

The Preview Series has four events specifically dedicated to the 12 – 15 age bracket. These events do not require Performance Stars to play in. Keep in mind the field is sorted by graduation year with older players gaining first position and younger players with a lesser position.

 

3. Play in Junior All-Star Events

Once you have earned enough Performance Stars to get into an ACDS Junior All-Star event, it’s time to play in the events themselves.

 

4. Consider Open qualifiers or events (if you are ready!)

If you have the game and distance to compete in the AJGA Open events (~6,800-yard courses for Boys, 6,000 yards for Girls) then consider giving Open events a chance. Start with the Qualifiers if you don’t have enough Stars and navigate to Open events as your Performance Star count increases.

As always, remember to use our Tournament Finder to search for  AJGA events and non-AJGA events that qualify for PBE near you!

Now let’s explore the cost associated with the AJGA.

 

Cost of the AJGA

The total cost to play in the AJGA per year depends on multiple factors but the key drivers are (a) how many events you play in and (b) how far away those events are.

For example, playing in the maximum number of events (five) and having to travel to each event by plane will put you into a completely different cost bracket than someone who registers and only plays in one or two events within driving distance.

So, estimating cost is tricky.

Let’s first start with the basics:

1. Membership costs $215 – $285 depending on your membership package

          – Add $25 for international mailing addresses

2. Event fees range from $230 – $375 depending on the type of event

          – $230 for Preview Series, $295 for Opens and Junior All-Stars, $375 for Invitationals

3. Qualifiers cost $110 for AJGA members and $135 for non-AJGA members

Outside of the AJGA fees, the next big cost factor is travel.

At our parent company, Golf Performance Center, we budget ~$1,000 – $1,500 for per event travel costs. This includes transportation, hotel, and meals.

Note this is an average and depends on the mode of transportation and how far away the venue is. Feel free to tailor this up or down based on your own personal circumstances.

To help you estimate your cost, we’ve put together a quick Hub calculator which allows you to select your event type as well as travel costs to calculate your annual AJGA budget.

 

Click Here for AJGA Cost Estimator

 

Cool Stuff!

Our experience is that the majority of AJGA participants will land somewhere in the $1,000 – $3,000 range per year when it relates to cost. This range assumes you play anywhere between 0 – 2 events per year (limited due to PBE) with the occasional traveling tournament.

For players at the top of the AJGA pyramid, it can be a different cost equation entirely! Players at the top of the pile jet-setting around the country for the maximum number of Opens (five) and then a few Invitationals can rack up $5,000 – $10,000+ worth of expenses pretty quick. A rare exception to the old adage “the rich get richer”!

Also, note the AJGA has a wonderful program in place called the ACE Grant which helps players who need a financial lift to play in the AJGA. This program has granted $3.6M to eligible participants over the years!

Check out https://www.ajga.org/acegrant/ to see if you are eligible.

Lastly, joining the AJGA has some major perks. For example, AJGA members receive 40% off equipment at TaylorMade plus exclusive offers from AJGA partners.

Not to mention 30 Days Free on The Hub!

 

Other questions

 

A question that always comes up is: Do I have to play in the AJGA?

As far as we know, there is no law that says you have to play in the AJGA. We know many players who secured college roster spots who competed solely in Regional events.

If you are tearing up the Regional circuit with scores consistent with coaches recruiting profiles, then many colleges will take note of that regardless of performance in the AJGA.

That being said, there are multiple advantages to playing on the AJGA including (a) competing on the biggest stage in junior golf (b) testing your skills against National level competition (c) ability to draw recognition from college coaches who recruit AJGA players. And many, many more!

Ultimately, the decision is a personal one. Weigh the pros and cons carefully. Our simple Hub advice is that if you have the talent, financial means and will to navigate the system, then seriously consider giving the AJGA a run.

Potential ways to go wrong

 

Like anything else in life, there are a few ways to go wrong when it comes to the AJGA. Here are a few:

 

1.  Your game’s not ready:

One mistake we see is that a player is simply not ready to compete in the AJGA. Mostly this results from failing to meet the minimum performance standards listed in above.

If you are not ready, a few undesirable things happen. These include being unable to play in enough events, wasting money or playing poorly and having a ‘black mark’ on your tournament record in a National tournament. So carefully consider the entry parameters above before setting sail.

 

2.  You start too late:

If your game is competitive, it’s better to start in early rather than later to (a) get your feet wet with the system and (b) test your game against the better players in the country. Both can be invaluable experiences.

Waiting until late Junior year or Senior year in high school may not give you enough time to thoroughly understand the system, where you stack up, and then make the necessary adjustments so you can thrive.

Also, keep in mind that it can take a while to gain momentum when it comes to accumulating Performance Stars. And your Performance Stars carry over into the next year making the AJGA a multi-year journey for many. Take note!

 

Conclusions

 

So there you have it. A Beginners Guide to the AJGA!

Did you hang in there? The AJGA takes a bit of time to learn and get used to but pays dividends.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Ben Franklin

Over time you’ll get over the initial learning curve and start right in on competing for trophies.

 

Always remember to Enjoy your Journey!

 

 

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