Ashleigh McLaughlin, the Vice President of Communications & Marketing for NCGA Youth on Course, got her start in golf through an organization in Florida, the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Association. There was so much that the OMYGA, founded by T.J. Dorsey, DDS, provided for McLaughlin – such as lessons, understanding the swing, golf clubs, access to courses in the area at reduced rates. She also acquired a love and a passion for golf that she carries with her in life, each and every day.
“I have to give all credit for the career I’ve been able to have and enjoy over this decade-plus, to my start in golf, which was in large part due to affordable access to the game,” said McLaughlin. “I learned to play golf here in Orlando through a youth golf organization, the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Association. It was founded by a dentist (T.J. Dorsey). He’s not a golf instructor. He’s just a man who’s really passionate about golf.”
McLaughlin and others in her family participated in the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Association, an organization that, according to its website, omyga.org, is family oriented while “nurturing the professionalism and discipline required to play the game of golf.”
The OMYGA program, the website adds, is designed to introduce minority youth, ages 6 to 18, to the sport of golf and to equip them with the skills to succeed in both golf and life.
“By teaching the skills required to succeed on the golf course, these inner-city and urban-area youth learn the importance of discipline which will help them grow in almost every aspect of life. The youth also develop various character traits such as positive self-esteem, self-motivation, self-direction and self-respect. Additionally, the OMYGA program aids in producing quality golf athletes that then qualify for high school and college golf teams.”
The organization, which has received assistance from the City of Orlando’s Recreation Department, enabled McLaughlin to play golf for free or just $1 at area courses.
“(T.J. Dorsey) just made it so there could be no barrier, essentially, to being able to participate. And so, as a result of that program, my family with three kids, all active and wanting to play sports, which obviously can get really costly, we were able to have that safe space to enjoy a sport, a sport that we could play together, a sport that builds traditions around that.
“And so, it’s given me a lot, which is why it has always felt really important to me to give back to golf, and do whatever I can to help kind of leave it better than when I first was introduced to it.”
Golf has become a life-long game for McLaughlin. She played college golf at Florida State University, graduating with a degree in marketing. She is an LPGA-certified teaching professional.
She worked for 12 years as the Managing Director for the LPGA Women’s Network, an online platform created by the LPGA Tour to connect more women to golf, according to the Youth on Course website, youthoncourse.org.
“Throughout her decade-plus tenure at the LPGA, she led the marketing strategy and re-branding of the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program and served as the National Tournament Director for the LPGA Professionals,” youthoncourse.org reports.
The website adds: “Ashleigh’s made it her mission to help bring more underrepresented groups to the game of golf through creative branding and marketing strategies, and credits affordable access to golf through the Orlando-based OMYGA junior program for her love of the game and career.”
McLaughlin left the LPGA Women’s Network and joined Youth on Course in 2020. Youth on Course’s website reports that, “Ashleigh is a marketing strategist who parlayed her early start with the game into a career in the golf industry. With more than a decade of experience growing brands through digital, content and experiential marketing she joins the Youth on Course team to help elevate our program’s branding and communication efforts.”
Youth on Course, now a nation-wide junior golf program consisting of 130,000-plus members, ages 6 to 18, for both boys and girls, was created in 2006 by the Northern California Golf Association, “in keeping with our innovative approach to promoting the game of golf,” according to ncga.org.
“Youth on Course, to me, is such an incredible outlet and an incredible mission to get to be a part of. So, that’s very much why I’m here and why I’m so motivated to be a part of this,” said McLaughlin, who is based in Orlando, Florida.
The Sacramento area is a big, big part of Youth on Course, with 1,300-plus members and eight facilities that are partnering with the organization. Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Bing Maloney Golf Complex,
Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course, William Land Golf Course, WildHawk Golf Club, Cordova Golf Course, Campus Commons Golf Course and Teal Bend Golf Club are the Sacramento-area facilities that partner with Youth on Course.
“Sacramento is a pretty strong area for us,” said McLaughlin. “There’s a pretty good number of courses in the Sacramento area.”
“Our philosophy is that we don’t compete really with other junior golf programs. There’s a number of chapters of First Tee or PGA Jr. League groups, and high school golf teams as well, who encourage or include a Youth on Course membership within their registration, so that kids can get out and play more often.”
According to ncga.org, Youth on Course provides aspiring youth golfers with access to affordable golf opportunities to not only help their golf game but develop them into leaders and outstanding young adults on and off the course with lasting impacts for years to come.
“Now featured nationwide, Youth on Course continues to provide young golfers with countless opportunities to continue to play and learn about the game of golf. Youth on Course members can play golf at hundreds of participating courses for $5 or less and receive an official NCGA Handicap Index! When you sign up for Youth on Course, you receive a membership for the NCGA and have access to exclusive NCGA member benefits. In addition to discounted course rates, Youth on Course members have access to invaluable resources such as opportunities for paid high school internships, caddie programs and college scholarships,” according to ncga.org.
Youth on Course, which has its headquarters at Poppy Hills Golf Course at Pebble Beach, points out that the organization provides its 130,000-plus members with access to play over 1,700 golf courses for $5 or less, “giving them opportunities to learn lessons that can be taught in a way only a golf course can. And beyond affordable golf, we provide opportunities for young people to get the support they need to succeed through our career prep, leadership and scholarship programs.”
A Look At Youth On Course
Youth on Course, founded in California, is a nonprofit organization.
According to its website, youthoncourse.org:
“In 2006, Youth on Course began as a simple solution to a disconnect golf faced for juniors in Northern California. While youth programs had sprouted up and were successfully helping teach juniors the basics of the game, the cost to play prevented those same young golfers from being able to take their skills onto the course.
“Fortunately, the Northern California Golf Association developed a unique model for local kids. It started by giving them access to play Poppy Hills Golf Course, home of the NCGA, for just $5.
“Like most good ideas, Youth on Course came to be from creative thinking which in this case focused on enabling young people to achieve access to opportunity through golf.
“It didn’t take long for the NCGA to realize that they were on to something, and very quickly they began to broaden their reach to other states. Oregon was the first out-of-state allied golf association to sign on, and shortly thereafter Youth on Course was added to Washington, Arizona and Idaho.
“With the help of passionate and generous individuals willing to give their time, energy and money to benefit the lives of young people through golf, Youth on Course now serves more than 120,000 members in all 50 U.S. states and part of Canada who have access to play golf at more than 1,500 courses across the U.S. and Canada.
“We’ll soon subsidize our one-millionth round of golf, and to this day, the NCGA continues to pay a substantial portion of administrative costs, allowing almost all private contributions to go directly to supporting Youth on Course members.
“Today, we’re proud to deliver more than just affordable access for young people to play the game. Through our quickly expanding member programs, we’re helping to deepen young people’s connection to golf with paid summer work experience through our Internship and Caddie programs. Youth on Course has also awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to over 260 high school students who have demonstrated financial need and academic excellence, many of whom became the first in their family to attend college.
“While our origins are humble, the impact we’re having on our members’ lives is significant. We believe that the future of golf can be even brighter, which requires making it inviting, appealing and — most importantly — accessible to all young people who will become the next generation of lifelong players and lovers of the game.”
According to its website, youthoncourse.org:
- “Belonging to the YOC community gives members access to play nearly 2,000 golf courses across North America for $5 or less, along with benefits and opportunities that support their journey with the game.”
- “Whether it’s early morning, after school or twilight hours, our golf course partners offer up blocks of tee times throughout the week for YOC members to play for $5 or less. We subsidize the cost of our members’ rounds to keep the price tag affordable, sending more families through our partner courses’ doors.”
- “We subsidize rounds through donations from individuals and organizations who like us, believe that every young person deserves access to play golf regardless of cost or circumstance.”
McLaughlin joins Youth on Course’s staff
McLaughlin joined Youth on Course’s staff in March of 2020. It was during the Coronavirus pandemic, and there was a huge spike in membership, with 30,000 juniors joining at the time.
There were 30,000 juniors who joined last year as well.
“It was definitely an interesting time to be starting a new job, because the world, in every business, was changing really quickly,” said McLaughlin. “After my time at the LPGA, I really wanted to get back to the nonprofit side, especially if I could work with kids somehow.
“For me, and for Youth on Course, during that time, it just kind of spoke to how important this program is. We’re continuing to grow and we’re still growing really quickly. And that’s really exciting to be a part of. And like I said, especially during that time, it just spoke to the importance of having golf as an outlet for kids. We were kind of the only thing that kids could do. But we were also an affordable option for families at a time when they really needed something like that.
“It’s just been wonderful to kind of see and experience. We really pride ourselves on trying to keep it simple, making sure that any kid who wants to be able to play this game and benefit from all of the great things golf has to offer, has that access to do so. And we also want to make sure that it’s easy for golf courses who want to be a part of this, can easily open their doors to YOC members so that they can play more affordably.”
Youth on Course believes that the golf course has the potential to be one of life’s best teachers, said McLaughlin, pointing out the great values and lessons that you learn from the game, including having patience and communicating with others around you.
“Beyond the relationships and the additional life skills, playing golf gives kids an opportunity to be in a safe space, enjoying nature, enjoying fresh air, unplugged from their phones, for several hours,” she said. “It’s something that they’re not going to get necessarily from other sports.”
How to join Youth on Course
To join Youth on Course, visit the website, youthoncourse.org.
To obtain additional information, or if there are questions, email Youth on Course at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.