It was the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Association, a nonprofit organization in Florida that was founded in 1991 by T.J. Dorsey, that gave Ashleigh McLaughlin her start in golf.
She was 10 at the time when she began playing and learning more and more about the game through the junior program in her hometown of Orlando.
“Dr. Dorsey started this program because he loved the game of golf and wanted to introduce it to more minorities who would not have otherwise thought about golf,” McLaughlin said. “He put it right in the inner city because he wanted it to be where kids who needed it the most would find it. That was my introduction to golf.”
McLaughlin continued in golf and took her game to another level, as she played on the Florida State University women’s golf team. She is an LPGA-certified teaching professional and was with the LPGA for several years, working as National Tournament Director for the LPGA Professionals, LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, and as the Managing Director for the LPGA Women’s Network.
McLaughlin said her early years in golf – thanks to the opportunity that the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Association provides – is what “connects” her to the passion that she brings to her job as the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at Youth on Course.
“I think golf has taught me a lot about myself, how I show up to different challenges, how I celebrate the things that go well, and how I bounce back from things that don’t go well,” said McLaughlin. “I can use my experiences on the golf course to remind me of how to carry myself or what to do in a certain situation in life.
“Golf has helped me. It’s given me a career that I really love. I’ve met so many interesting people and I’ve gone to so many different places, thanks to this sport.”
Youth on Course was created by the Northern California Golf Association in 2006. It “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,” according to the NCGA website, ncga.org
According to the “Our Story” section on its website, youthoncourse.org, “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.”
Youth on Course is a national program that serves more than 120,000 youths, boys and girls, ages 6 to 18.
“It’s all been made possible with the help of passionate and generous individuals willing to give their time, energy and money to benefit young people through golf,” youthoncourse.org reports on its website.
The program provides access for juniors to play golf at more than 1,400 courses throughout the U.S. and also in Canada. Several of those courses are in Sacramento, including those that Morton Golf Management oversees: Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, William Land Golf Course, Bing Maloney Golf Complex, Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course.
For McLaughlin, the love that she has for her work with Youth on Course can be traced back to when she gained an immediate interest in the game through the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Association.
“Dr. Dorsey provided not only access to play, but to do so affordably. And so he brought down the cost for all of the members of the OMYGA to where we could play for free in a lot of instances, at a lot of courses. Clubs and clothes, if we needed it, it was there for us. He just made it super simple,” said McLaughlin, who earned her marketing degree, with a minor in communications, from Florida State.
“We had a built-in community of friends and coaches and things like that, to kind of nurture us along in our really critical years in life. That was my beginning, my introduction to golf, and essentially my connection to Youth on Course. It’s why I love this work.
“It really doesn’t feel like work, when you get up and do something that is helping other people and something that has benefited you and that you are passionate about.” On its website, youthoncourse.org, Youth on Course reports:
“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.”
Youth on Course provides access to more than 1,400 golf courses across North America for $5 or less, “along with benefits and opportunities that support their journey with the game,” according to youthoncourse.org.
Youth on Course adds: “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.”
In addition, Youth on Course reports: “Our work is possible thanks to our partnerships with Allied Golf Associations and a growing network of golf courses who support our mission. 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.”
Youth on Course was founded in Northern California. Its headquarters are located at Poppy Hills Golf Course, Pebble Beach. It’s also the home of the NCGA.
“What they were finding in Northern California was that while there were a lot of kids who were learning to play the game, there were very few that were actually on the golf course. And in talking with parents and young people about why they weren’t getting out to play, they realized really quickly that the issue was cost,” said McLaughlin.
“Obviously, part of the fun in learning golf is actually getting to take what you learn on the lesson tee out on the course and experience the game. That’s where it really happens.”
There was a big surge in juniors joining Youth on Course in 2020. The organization welcomed 30,000 new members. There were also over 400,000 rounds played by Youth on Course members last year.
“It’s pretty incredible given the type of year that we had, but also really special for us to be able to give our members that opportunity to play and find that solace, and to make it affordable for them, because there’s so many families that were hurting financially last year, too,” said McLaughlin.
Sacramento-area facilities that participate in Youth on Course
There are several Sacramento-area facilities that participate in Youth on Course.
- Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, Sacramento.
- Bing Maloney Golf Complex, Sacramento.
- William Land Golf Course, Sacramento.
- Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course, Sacramento.
- Antelope Greens Golf Course, Antelope.
- Ancil Hoffman Golf Course, Carmichael.
- Campus Commons Golf Course, Sacramento.
- Cherry Island Golf Course, Elverta.
- Darkhorse Golf Club, Auburn.
- Davis Golf Course, Davis.
- Diamond Oaks Golf Course, Roseville.
- Emerald Lakes Golf Course, Elk Grove.
- Empire Ranch Golf Club, Folsom.
- Mather Golf Course, Mather.
- Teal Bend Golf Club, Sacramento.
- The Ridge Golf Club, Auburn.
- Turkey Creek Golf Club, Lincoln.
- WildHawk Golf Club, Sacramento.
- Woodcreek Golf Club, Roseville.
- Cordova Golf Course, Sacramento.
- Wild Wings Golf Club, Woodland.
- Yocha Dehe Golf Club, Brooks.
- Lake of the Pines Golf Course, Auburn.
For more information
To join Youth on Course, or for more information, go to youthoncourse.org.
Youth on Course members receive an official NCGA Handicap Index, the NCGA said. It also includes NCGA membership, allowing for access to NCGA member benefits, the NCGA said. “In addition to discounted course rates, Youth on Course members have access to resources such as opportunities for paid high school internships, caddie programs and college scholarships.”
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.