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Mike Bender overcomes obstacles to provide an enriching golf experience for juniors

General Manager and Head Golf Professional Mike Bender, PGA of Duluth Golf looks to continue golf new junior programs into upcoming seasons.

The core objective of Go Futures is to grow the game. In our spotlights, we showcase the achievements of our industry professionals’ player development programs.

General Manager and Head Golf Professional Mike Bender, PGA at Duluth Golf in Duluth, Minnesota shares his tips in finding the joy in golf and sharing it with his junior players.

Question: How many overall participants did we have through your programming?
Answer: In 2020, we had a total of 86 participants. This was highly due to the threat of COVID-19. As of July 2021, we have hosted 132 participants in our player development programming.

Q: Summarize your plan for continuing to grow your facility’s programs.
A: In the fall to 2022 winter, our plan is to offer Indoor Junior Golf programs. The last two off-seasons our facility was set up for it, but with COVID-19 restrictions we were not allowed to promote. Hopefully this year, that will change.

Q: What are the strengths to your facility and location? What are the challenges that you face?
A: Our practice facility includes a putting green, short game area, and range. This is a huge strength as these are great facilities for our juniors. We also have a 27-hole facility however, it is extremely busy. The increase in play over the last year has made it tough to move juniors to the golf course.

Q: Why do people come to you and why do they stay?
A: Our goal at Duluth is to make it easy on parents and fun for the juniors. The registration process is simple, and the length of programs allows us to keep the juniors engaged. Every junior is provided a snack + drink each lesson and a tee gift after each series. Our philosophy is to keep it simple and FUN!

Q: Please share a story of a student (current or former) who has stood out because of their passion for learning and playing the game, personal growth, improvement, tournament success or major achievement such as winning an award, earning a scholarship or becoming a PGA Pro.
A: No one makes me prouder than my two boys. They both have shown a passion in the game, improved, and love to play golf. Watching them grow through high school varsity golf to excelling on the college golf team has been an honor! Now they volunteer with our junior golf programs to help other aspiring high school players to improve. It has been great joy to see these young men grow.

Q: What is your drive to grow the game?
A: Growing the game is very rewarding. My goal is to provide the opportunities I had, and my kids had, an opportunity for every junior that enters the program to fall in love with the game. It is an ever changing and evolving process, keeping juniors engaged with the game. I find joy in what I do every day.

Q: Why did you choose golf as a career?
A: Originally, I was a hockey player, who played golf, and planned to play in a minor league hockey overseas. Shortly after I turned 21, my plans changed, and I attended college instead. It was then I learned about the PGA of America and my decision was made - I was going to be a golf professional!

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