For promising golfers just graduating from college, the road to professional play can be daunting and financially draining. A few fortunate players may earn sponsorships, or belong to golf clubs that accommodate regular practice. But, for those without such means or membership, the dream of playing professional golf is often beyond reach.
With this group of players in mind, The Grove, a top-flight golf community near Nashville, has developed the Rewards Program for collegiate golfers pursuing a pro career. By providing access to their premier course and practice facility, the Grove offers a home course where these young golfers can hone their skills and support one another on their way toward national ranking.
“Golf has been intrinsic to my success in business, in life and in relationships,” says The Grove’s Managing Partner Mark Enderle who embraced the program as a way to “extend golf’s positive influence on young people who have demonstrated a high respect for the game.” By giving these players a home course and full access to club facilities, Mr. Enderle also admits these young golfers have become “a part of The Grove’s golf family. We take great pride in their achievements and support them through their losses. It’s a long-term relationship,” he says.
Dick Horton, president of the Tennessee Golf Foundation, helps identify the players with real potential and reasonable dreams of going pro. He suggests this could be a game-changer for the prospective professional player. “There is a lost group of players who dream of playing professionally, but don’t have access to courses or training facilities that challenge their play and improve their game. The Grove connects those dots: bringing young men and women who have demonstrated their professional potential, to a course and facility that is world class.”
The Rewards Program is invitation-only and acceptance is based on research, relationships with college coaches, player talent, and academic performance. It’s not a lifetime grant; rather it simply supports players as they work toward their professional ranking.And new players are invited annually.
Presently, there are 10 participants in the Rewards Program, among them, Jason Millard and Kent Bulle, both graduates of Middle Tennessee State University, and participants since 2013. “There’s a draft for other sports, but not in golf,” says Mr. Millard, adding, “Some guys are immediately sponsored, but for those who aren’t, you just have to pay to play.” He credits the program for making him a better golfer and getting him to the next level. He earned status on the pgaweb.com tour in 2014 and will participate in 13 tournaments this year. “I’m very fortunate this program has been available to me. The Grove has been a terrific course and community and playing here over the past several years has definitely improved my game.”
Kent Bulle agrees. “It’s a tough gig, bouncing from mini-tour to mini-tour, so it’s wonderful to have a place to call home. They welcome us with open arms, the staff and members alike. They’ve created a close-knit group of young golfers here who are all striving for the PGA tour.”
Management and members of The Grove appreciate the impact of their hospitality and take personal pride when a Rewards Program participant makes the grade.