It is easy for Joel Cunningham Jr. to smile when he talks about Halifax PGA Junior League golf.

The junior golf program Cunningham got off the ground last year with a dozen golfers and one team has doubled in size this year, growing to 23 golfers and now two teams, a 13U team and a 17U team.

“This year we have 23 kids, as opposed to last year when we had 12,” Cunningham said.

“It (PGA Junior League) has also grown in the surrounding areas. This year we have added Lynchburg to the league, so we will be playing at Colonial Hills Golf Club (in Forest) with the 17U team. Farmville just started a program this year, so we will be playing Farmville for the first time.”

The Halifax PGA Junior League team had a successful first season last year. Halifax won the region competition but struggled in state competition.

“We got to the state tournament but weren’t competitive,” Cunningham said.

“We had just started our program. Clemson and Charlotte, North Carolina have been in this league for 10 years, and they have a larger pool from which to pull players from. We were beaten handily, but the kids had a good time. Will Long and Hunter Young kept their match real close and were very competitive. It was great experience for everybody.”

Cunningham said he is seeing a growth in golf among young players.

“What I have noticed is that with the popularity of golf growing, more and more kids are interested,” Cunningham pointed out.

“When they try it they really want to play. We are fortunate because we have two golf clubs here (Halifax Country Club and Green’s Folly Golf Course), and both clubs have taken an interest in letting the kids play. All we can do is get the kids interested at an early age.”

The Halifax PGA Junior League program has the potential to make a big impact in the golf programs at Halifax County Middle School and Halifax County High School as a feeder program for the two schools.

“It just happened that the kids that played last year were all starters for the middle school team last year,” Cunningham noted.

“It gave them a slight advantage because they were able to play golf throughout the summer. You have to start by planting the tree, and you have to get the kids to learn to play as a team.

“That is what they are doing here,” Cunningham continued.

“This is not an individual competition. We play as a team, and that’s teaching them early how to consider each other and how to consider the needs of the whole team and not the individual.”

The experience the young players gain by playing and competing in PGA Junior League golf will make them better golfers in future years.

“This can only enhance the high school golf program,” Cunningham pointed out.

“If the kids start early, and they play together and continue to play, I see us competing in the state finals one day and doing well. It has to have some impact down the line.”

Cunningham says he sees nothing but better days ahead for Halifax PGA Junior League golf.

“We know the recipe, and I think if we continue to come together we will have a bigger pool (of players) to pull from, have more kids and be more competitive.”

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com