It is quite likely you have seen the vans driving around Bluffton with “IJGA” signs on them. These vans are driving around some of the best junior golfers in the world.
International Junior Golf Academy is the oldest independent junior golf academy in the nation, with more than 2,000 alumni and nearly a 100 percent college placement rate.
Junior golfers from all over the world come to the Lowcountry to advance their golf skills, hoping to acquire college scholarships and the skills needed to become a touring professional.
This semester, there are 43 students from 19 countries attending the academy.
Jonathan Yarwood, the director of the academy, has been training golfers for 24 years. He has coached winners on both the LPGA and PGA tours.
Yarwood said that it is easy to recruit for the academy due to the success of their alumni. “We have a real strong brand name,” he said.
IJGA trains junior golfers for success in tournament golf and beyond by combining training, academics and competition. Training helps students develop commitment, goal setting and a work ethic needed in golf and all future endeavors.
“We want the students to improve their technique without being too technical. We are more about the process than the outcome,” Yarwood said. “We develop the student and find the right college fit.”
Schooling takes place at the Heritage Academy, a highly accredited college-prep institution. Students receive daily physical conditioning and instruction in full swing, short game, course management and mental conditioning.
IJGA uses some of the most advanced screening tools for its students. Technology such as TrackMan, body tracking and videotaping are used to help analyze all students.
The students get to play and train at Pinecrest Golf Club, which has a 15,000-square-foot putting green, short-game area and driving range. They also get to play several courses in Bluffton and Hilton Head.
The academy is currently building a $1.8 million facility at the barn at Old Carolina. This facility will have indoor hitting bays, with force plates in the ground that show weight shift. There will be indoor chipping and putting greens and technology in each hitting bay for year round teaching.
I recently spoke with two of the students at the academy. Haruka, age 17, is from Japan and started playing golf at age 12. Prior to coming to the academy she shot in the high 80s. Her goal is to play in the LPGA tour.
Fiona, also 17, is from Southeast Asia near Thailand and started golf at age 5 playing with one golf club. Her sister attended the IJGA Academy and got a college scholarship. Fiona’s goal is to play in college and be near her sister.
Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at Brown Golf Management courses. jean.golfdoctor.harris @gmail.com; www.golfdoctorjean.com