Roger Knick, founder of Junior Golf Hub, takes a practice swing during the Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship which began on Sunday, November 15, at Koasati Pines in Kinder. (LSN photo by Tony Marks)
Teeing up the future
KINDER - Tomorrow is not just defined by a 24-hour period that comes after today. Tomorrow is also a period of time in the future that is shaped by our actions and decisions we make each day. These actions and decisions affecting tomorrow come in many different shapes and sizes, but some come from things as small as golf balls.
“Golf is so appealing because it’s hard,” said Roger Knick, who is the founder of Junior Golf Hub. “It has such a good parallel to what life is all about. You can hit a drive right down the middle 300 yards, and you can flub a chip shot. We can do that in life too where we can feel life is going so easy, and, all of a sudden, we have a devastating thing that happens in our lives.”
“He continued, “It’s just so appealing that anybody can really play it. That’s one of the things I am really embracing with Notah Begay III, Ryan Byrd, and their partners on how are we going to expose this to more kids and get more kids involved in this wonderful game for life.”
Knick was on hand at Koasati Pines at Coushatta in Kinder for the inaugural Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship that began on Sunday, November 15. The tournament was created by Begay who is a four-time winner of the PGA Tour.
“I think it’s a wonderful event for the young high school kids from all over the country,” Knick said. “I think it’s a great platform to get kids involved in playing golf. I think golf is such a fun thing to do. I think Notah getting behind this and wanting to create a platform for junior golfers to expose their talents and making it more inclusive is really big.”
“This is the first of its kind,” continued Knick. “It’s never been done in the junior golf world. Having this opportunity for these kids to be exposed nationally especially now with college coaches not being able to see players is big. This is a great opportunity for a lot of college coaches to see these young players.”
The competition is open to boys and girls in two divisions- 13 and under and 14-18 years old. The plan is to grow the tournament and create a boys field and a girls field to, as Knick said, “be able to allow more girls and more boys in the field.”
The tournament began with regional qualifications across the country. Knick said, “It’s like college football in a sense where a kid can play for a conference and hopefully get to a national bowl game.”
The tournament will be televised nationally on Golf Channel on Wednesday, December 9, which will add to its intended exposure.
“From that,” Knick said, “I think we’ll see more interest for next year and how it’s going to grow. You can tell this is something a lot of people are looking forward to.”
Knick, a native of Danville, Va., first got involved in golf after retiring from baseball. “I played baseball and football in college,” he said, “but, as I moved from professional baseball, I still wanted to be a professional athlete. So, I got into golf, but I realized I wasn’t good enough to make it on the PGA Tour.”
“I loved the development of it,” he continued. “My background was in exercise science and biomechanics, so I loved the idea of development.”
Knick’s love of golf led him to start academies through his Golf Performance Center LLC. “I started my academy almost 20 years ago, and that was kind of my entry into junior golf,” he said. “I tried to play golf for a few years to no avail of getting a PGA Tour card, but I had some really great experiences and was exposed to some really cool things in life, some good people, and good mentors.”
Through these academies, Knick is able to use golf as a tool to convey his five elements of success. “My desire to learn and improve moved me to the level of wanting to play golf at a higher level and improving my knowledge of the game as well,” he explained. “Having good mentors and coaches around me was really important for me to continue that exposure and development.”
He continued, “Then, physically, function dictates form, and, obviously, mentally being able to have the mental fortitude to withstand all the failures to get to success. Having the right equipment is so important as well. When I thought about my journey, I thought about that not just from a golf perspective but a life perspective.”
Around the same time he began his academies, that is when Knick created his Junior Golf Hub as a way to get more young people involved in golf.
“I wanted to help juniors out there and their parents because it is a tough road,” Knick said. “There is a lot of conflicting information out there, so the idea of Junior Golf Hub is trying to have all that information to educate parents and players on what’s available to them and to educate the college coaches on the fact there are a lot of players out there that they probably never heard of who are playing some great golf.”
Aside from using his organizations to expose more juniors to golf, Knick plans on using the motion picture Caddyshack which celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year. “At our academy,” he said, “we are talking about playing it on our movie night. We have kids who are nine-years-old saying they want to know what this movie is all about. Obviously, we can’t watch it with them, but our older kids say that is something fun to watch.”
Knick said he mostly associates himself with Bill Murray’s character “Carl” in the movie. “To me,” Knick expressed, “he’s observing the world from a very different perspective which I really love. You can tell he loves what he’s doing for the reasons he’s doing it.”
Knick went on to explain the movie’s storyline is plausible, even though it seems far fetched. “You can find success from any walk of life,” he said. “I think the movie is one of those things you watch and laugh at, but, when you think of the storyline, it’s very plausible. We’ve got kids in the field who wouldn’t be here unless they got some help like Danny did in the movie. Because they got some help coming from adverse backgrounds, they can now step up and have that opportunity that’s been afforded to them.”
Through the Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship, the golf academies and Junior Golf Hub, and another 40 years of watching Caddyshack, Knick hopes to grow the junior population of golf. “There is only about 4.5 to 5 million kids who are actively in golf,” he said. “In the world population, that’s a very small number. We’d love to see that grow. I think we have 60 million kids between the ages of 8 and 18 in the United States. Growing to get 20 percent of that exposed to golf would be a wonderful thing.”
He concluded, “I just think, having grown up myself in a difficult background and not being exposed to golf as a young kid, what could I have learned from caddying or learned from those mentors at a club. You can go and see kids playing golf with older adults, and that mentorship and those relationships just kind of move them in their lives a little bit differently. Even though I got into it later, that was still a big part of my development. I got to play with guys I didn’t know, and I learned from them. They talked about business, and they talked about different things which led me in a different direction. Golf is a wonderful game for the life skills we want to learn.”