Dale Ketola, the owner and director of the Potential Golf school at Farmstead Golf Links and a former member of the Coastal Carolina men’s golf team, is the new Horry County Chapter director of the South Carolina Junior Golf Association’s Hootie & the Blowfish Junior Golf Series.
Ketola replaces Ashley Smith of Conway, who stepped down after running the program for six years.
His area runs from Murrells Inlet through Little River and includes Conway and Aynor.
Ketola said Justin Fleming of the SCJGA called and encouraged him to take the position.
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“It was kind of a no-brainer for me,” Ketola said. “The thing for me is I went through the SCJGA when I was a junior golfer myself through the Piedmont Chapter in Greenwood. It was always run very well and we had a bunch of kids.”
Ketola sees a need and opportunity for increased participation in the Myrtle Beach area. The program is for players ages 8-18 and has four boys age divisions and three girls divisions.
“For some reason or another in my opinion Myrtle Beach junior golf is not what it needs to be. It’s always lagging behind other parts of the state,” Ketola said. “I don’t’ know if it’s because it’s a tourist area, but it’s always been behind. Being able to get in there and make it better is one of the reasons I wanted to do it.”
The SCJGA program merged in 2002 with the Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Program started by Carolyn Cudone in 1981, and Ketola’s wife, the former Jamie Goebel, was a co-director of the program from 2002-05 while she worked for Burroughs & Chapin.
The top juniors in Myrtle Beach over more than two decades participated in Cudone’s program, including current LPGA Tour member Kristy McPherson as well as Curt Sanders, who attended Ohio State, and Justin Roof, who attended Wake Forest.
Between 150 and 200 juniors annually participated in the program during Jamie Ketola’s tenure.
Ketola points out that several current or past PGA Tour members including Lucas Glover, D.J. Trahan, Jonathan Byrd and Ben Martin all participated in the SCJGA’s Hootie program, and he believes juniors can play in the events in addition to participating in other junior schools and instruction.
“When I was growing up they all played in these events. These events weren’t too small for them so they shouldn’t be too small for anybody,” Ketola said. “They need to be in the SCJGA on top of what they’re already doing. We have to get the participation up in the Myrtle Beach area, so that’s going to be one of my goals.”
The program is essentially a series of up to 12 summer tournaments, though each chapter director can set their own agenda. Smith managed to get some local pros to conduct clinics, and though Ketola said it’s too early to know for sure exactly what his program will offer, he intends to have pre-tournament clinics and other game-improvement activities.
He also wants to spread tournaments around the Strand. Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club in Conway was the primary tournament site this past summer.
“I think if we can get some of the better golf courses in the area and spread them out that’s going to help, and just make the tournaments nicer overall,” Ketola said. He plans to have tournament volunteers, including his wife, and plans to recruit players in area schools.
He hopes to raise money for prizes in each event and a goodie bag for participation in the program.
Each event awards points and the top two players in each age group will be eligible for the Hootie series state tournament.
Program membership is $160 plus an additional $10 per event. Registration is through the scjga.org website.
Ketola said he’ll explore adding fall and winter events in future years.
There are 18 chapters statewide. A South Strand Chapter with a full schedule in Georgetown County is being run by Jeff Burton of Daniel Island, who also runs a chapter in Charleston.