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February 4, 2022

AGA’s Priest looks forward to continued growth following ‘tremendous 2021 tournament season’

By Gregg Dewalt
Alabama Golf Association head Andy Priest

Weather topped the list of 2021 challenges for the Alabama Golf Association recently caught up with Andy Priest, the executive director of the Alabama Golf Association. Andy wrapped up the 2021 season and offered a look ahead at what 2022 has to offer.

AGN: The Alabama Golf Association made it through 2021. What were the highlights of the year? After 2020, did 2021 feel like everything was back to normal?

Priest: Weather issues aside, we had a tremendous 2021 tournament season where we played a full schedule of events. In my 25 years of golf administration, I do not remember encountering such a volume of weather that impacted our events.

Somehow, we handed out all the trophies that occasionally required unique thinking or having to shorten an event like the State Mid-Amateur at Hoover Country Club to 18 holes due to historic flooding.

2021 saw a national championship come to Alabama

Looking back at last season, the headline to me was the overall participation with record numbers in several events, especially with our women’s and junior girls’ competitions. Also, hosting a USGA national championship always brings a spotlight to the great golf we have in this state. Kudos to Lakewood Golf Club for a tremendous job hosting the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur back in September.

Thankfully, things were certainly more “normal” last year than in 2020. However, we had to remain diligent in taking appropriate precautions, when necessary, to keep our staff, host facilities and participants as safe as possible. Covid is something that we are continuing to learn about and cope with.

AGN: It seems like the Youth on Course initiative is growing quickly. I know you added some more courses. How do you think the program is doing after just a couple of years? Have there been many challenges? Where do you see the program headed?

Priest: We are very pleased with the response from the RTJ Golf Trail and other facilities across the state that quickly jumped in to support Youth on Course Alabama.

As you noted, we have seen program growth in our first two years. Historically when this program enters year three, that tremendous growth in participation has been seen nationally.

Our goals are to double the number of members and rounds played this coming year. This program is all about providing facility access to junior golfers that need it at a very affordable fee of $5, and we hope more juniors will take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

AGN: Look ahead at 2022. What’s on tap for the AGA? What has you excited for the year?

Priest: Always excited to turn the calendar into a new year to see all the staff’s hard work and planning come to life. We have big plans for our foundation’s future impact that includes the goal of securing our AGA license plate campaign commitments over the required minimum threshold of 1,000 so those can go into production later this year.

Tournament-wise, we again have a full championship schedule, women’s one-day tournaments, 10 USGA National Championship qualifiers along with another USGA national championship being held in Alabama with the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at the Country Club of Birmingham in May.

The Alabama Golf Association runs on relationships

Also, we are hosting an AGA sponsored golf trip to Northwest Ireland from August 20-27 where we still have a few spots available for those wanting to travel across the pond with us.

AGN: It looks like another set of strong courses for AGA championships this year. How do you manage to come up with great course lineups year after year?

Priest: It all boils down to having great relationships. We simply cannot conduct AGA and USGA events without the support of our member clubs that are so generous in opening their facilities to us, especially during these times of increased demand and participation.

AGN: How does a person become a member of the Alabama Golf Association? Do they have to belong to a member club or can they just be a muni player with no AGA-affiliated club? Can a non-member play in AGA tournaments?

Priest: Primarily you must be a member of the AGA to play in one of our tournaments with some exceptions such as being the partner in our Parent-Child Championship.

There are two ways to join the Alabama Golf Association. First option is to visit your local golf course and inquire about their membership opportunities. Make sure to ask about the AGA membership/Handicap Index as part of that conversation.

Here’s a link to search for a member club nearby:

Second option is to join us directly online via our AGA eClub that costs $48/year.

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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Featured image: Alabama Golf Association

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