A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PKBGT
Founded in 2007 by the non-profit Triad Youth Golf Foundation as a local girls' golf tour in the Triad region of North Carolina, the tour began as a simple concept from Tour Founder Robert Linville, PGA: create more effective competitive playing opportunities for girls in the Carolina's. Developed as a partnership with Tour Director Mike Parker and two LPGA teaching professionals, the tour set out to change the landscape of junior girls' golf. By utilizing innovative yardage-based divisions instead of the traditional age-based format, the tour focused on developing tournament experience at the players pace. The tour's concept has produced 133 college golfers in just six seasons.
Beginning with a six event series in the Triad region sponsored by the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf programs of Greensboro, NC and Winston-Salem, NC, the inaugural tour featured 65 members. The first Order of Merit champion was crowned, Kayla Sciupider, currently a collegiate golfer at Division II standout Rollins College.
The 2008 season marked the beginning of the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls' Golf Tour era. TYGF President and US Kids Top 50 Master Teacher Chris Haarlow, PGA, brought on his mentor in golf, Peggy Kirk Bell, as the honorary chairwoman of the tour. With a new name, the tour began a four year expansion that brought the tour to a year-round schedule including the addition of multi-day events and expansion of the tour into all parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. With a membership growing to over 240 members from 10 states, the tour featured larger, deeper fields that attracted the top players and top coaches to the PKBGT.
Stand-out champions began to emerge on the tour, with 2008 and 2009 Order of Merit champion Katherine Perry, now an All-American at UNC Chapel Hill, becoming the first dominant player on tour. An eight time winner on tour, Katherine also claimed the Inaugural PKB Invitational in 2009. Following Katherine's reign was two-time major champion and 2010 Order of Merit champion Katie Kirk, now a stand-out performer at East Carolina University. Katie claimed two major championships including a record-breaking performance in the 2010 PKBGT Invitational shooting 5-under par 137 to claim the title.
In 2011, additional partnerships began to develop as the Peggy Kirk Bell Foundation founded out of Pine Needles Lodge & GC in Southern Pines, NC became a Premier Sponsor of the tour. With the increased sponsorship, the tour was able to continue to add tournaments and staff and increase growth into new states, Georgia & Maryland for the 2012 schedule. In addition, partnerships with the Sagrain Golfweek rankings, national tours and invitational's increased the value and prestige of the PKBGT. Along with an increased focus on college golf preparation, the tour exploded in 2012, increasing membership to over 300 players and routinely filling fields of 90 girls in the spring season.
With the increased membership, the regionalism of top players on the tour was evident. 2011 Order of Merit champion Bryana Nguyen (2014) hails from Columbia, Maryland while 2011 PKBGT Invitational champion Lucia Polo (2013) is a foreign exchange student from Guatemala playing out Precision Golf School in Greensboro, North Carolina. Both players are currently ranked in the top-100 in the country by the Golfweek rankings in addition to 2011 PKBGT Open Championships winner Jessica Porvasnik (2013), a verbal committee to the Ohio State University from Hinckley, Ohio.
The summer of 2012 brought another great partnership for the PKBGT with the LPGA Foundation naming the PKBGT its first "Approved Tour" in the country. The partnership links the PKBGT, LPGA Foundation and national LPGA/USGA Girls Golf program to expand opportunities for girls in the United States to participate in tournaments and grow with the game. 2013 approaches and sky is the limit for the girls' of the PKBGT.
"As a pioneer of women's golf instruction and a Charter Member of the LPGA, I am honored to have the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls' Golf Tour associated with the LPGA. As the honorary chair of the PKBGT, it has been exciting to watch the tour grow and provide opportunities for girls to learn and play the game." said Peggy Kirk Bell, a 2012 honoree at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. "We need to get more girls in the U.S. playing the game and the alliance of the LPGA and PKBGT will continue to grow the game for generations to come."
In 2014, the PKBGT in partnership with the LPGA launched their 10-year growth plan, the "Let's Play" Campaign. The mission of the campaign is to create partnerships among industry leaders to grow and sustain girls golf participation through appropriate, affordable "girls only" competitions. The campaign focuses on three strategic goals: increasing LPGA-USGA girls golf membership and participation, sustaining growth through competitive opportunities, and developing equity in competitive opportunities. The PKBGT's vision through the Let's Play Campaign is to establish 1,000 "girls' only" tournaments in the next 10 years based on a multi-level competitive framework which cultivates, enhances, and recognizes girls' successes in the game.
Just one year into the "Let's Play" Campaign, the PKBGT was increasing opportunities for junior girl golfers. The PKBGT in partnership with LPGA-USGA Girls Golf assumed operation of the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Team Championship. The annual Championship gives girls the chance to pair up with a friend and compete for the title. In addition to competition, the championship features fun social activities and college golf recruiting workshops for parents and juniors interested in learning how to play at the next level. Also in 2015, the PKBGT created a new RecruitPKB College Scholarship Program to provide scholarships for PKBGT members who wish to attend college, and additional college recruiting consultation services for members. The annual Inspire. Dream. Achieve. Banquet was also introduced in 2015 to recognize top players' achievements on the PKBGT throughout the year. The event features special guests and speakers who share their wisdom and experiences with the players and their families.
The 2016 season focused on expanding the One-Day Developmental Series by partnering with the South Carolina Women's Golf Association and the Middle Atlantic PGA to introduce One-Day Series events in the South Carolina and Middle Atlantic regions. The number of developmental series events increased to 24. The PKBGT also created a new partnership with the LPGA Tour and/or Symetra Tour for the 2017 season to provide links for aspiring collegiate golfers to connect with professionals in the game.
In 2017, the PKBGT hosted the inaugural LPGA Symetra Tour Women's Health Classic Junior Challenge. The Junior Challenge provides an opportunity for PKBGT members to experience world class competition on the LPGA Symetra Tour. The Junior Challenge Champion receives a sponsor exemption into the Self Regional Women's Health Classic. The PKBGT also added a Premier Sponsor to the tour in 2017. Storie Apparel was founded by junior golf parents who saw a need for relevant clothing in the game, so they created a collection of tops, bottoms, outer-wear, and accessories that set new standard of performance and fit. Storie Apparel shirts are included as a gift in the PKBGT Regional Membership packets. Storie Apparel is also a sponsor of the Regional Order of Merit Standings: North Carolina, Southeast, and Middle Atlantic.
As we approach the 2018 season, the PKBGT is excited about new opportunities to expand the tour and "girls only" golf tournaments to two new regions: Florida and New England. The PKBGT will also host the inaugural Linville Cup, which is designed to reward and enrich the lives of the top finishers of the 2017 PKBGT with a weekend of team golf and leadership seminars, building on our motto of "more than a golf tournament".