Cheating Policy Update

We PGA Golf Professionals are proud of the contributions we make to this great game we call golf.  One of the things that we are most proud of is junior golf.  Of our involvements in junior golf the ones that stands out are our SCPGA Junior Tours.  Our junior tournaments are comprised of three tiers based on ability.  They are the Junior Development Tour for those starting their competitive golf journey, the Players Tour for our JDT graduates and what is, perhaps, the top regional tour in the nation, the Toyota Tour Cup.  Our junior membership is over 3,000 and growing.  We hold nearly 300 junior tournaments each year (Covid year excepted unfortunately).  Our association has been around since 1948.  We have operated it since 1989 after taking it over at the request of the last few of the associations directors.

I believe our alumni have produced an incredible amount of successes on the golf course as amateurs and professionals.  I also know that among our alumni are a tremendous number of people whose successes are in other areas.  I run into them all the time and am fascinated by those successes. Many of them give credit to their junior golf background for their success.  Thus, personally, I am very proud of all of our juniors.

With that many junior members and that many events I think it’s inevitable that there will be some incidents along the way of which that we aren’t so proud.   Over the years some of the juniors and some of their parents have brought reports to me personally that I find upsetting.  They bring reports of cheating incidents in our SCPGA Junior Tours.  More of these reports find their way to our junior staff members.

Many, if not most, are hearsay or rumors and many are without merit.  But a few are of valid concern.  How we handle those situations is not something we generally publish or announce.  However, please know that our SCPGA Junior Tour Staff and our Advisory Committee, which I have been privileged to chair for 30 years, take those reports very seriously.  Every one of them.

I want all our junior members and their parents to know that if a report reaches our door step we check it out.  As I said, many of those reports turn out to be A) rumors, B) unfounded, C) uncorroborated or a he said/she said situation upon which we cannot act.  But then there are times that we do have staff accounts or other witnesses who will step forward.  In such cases we deal with it.  Our staff documents and files everything brought to our attention whether action is taken or not.  When we do find the need to take action it can be anything from an admonishment to suspended playing privileges and, in extremely rare cases, expulsion.  We hate to take those steps because, well, kids are kids and they do make mistakes.  Our goal is for them to achieve their dreams or at least fall in love with the game enough to play if for a life time.

For those 30 years we have had an Ethics Committee which deals with those incidents.  It is comprised of myself and two other PGA Professionals who love the game and care about our kids as much as any two people I know.  We have a staff which follows up on every report of such an incident.  For those incidents where we find verifiable evidence of a misdeed, we take action.  We have done this for as long as we have operated the junior tours.  And we will continue to do it because our goal is to operate one of the finest, if not the finest, junior tour in the nation.  We cannot do that if the integrity of the game is not upheld.

Why do these incidents happen? What are the reasons?  Frequently the reports we receive are for rules violations versus cheating.  What’s the difference?  For one, rules violations are fairly common because we are dealing with kids who are learning the game.  It’s pretty hard to expect them to know all the Rules of Golf. They do pass a rules test but it takes a while for anyone to learn the whole rule book.  Heck, they are hard for PGA and LPGA tour players too. So usually rules violations are unintentional.  And sometimes with the instances of cheating the rules are violated intentionally.  And that is the difference – intent.

Sadly we often find that a junior is feeling pressure to perform well.  That pressure can come from within.  A junior is trying to climb the points’ ladder or sometimes is embarrassed when playing beneath the normal ability.  There are lots of different reasons for each case.  Iit can be from external forces also.  It may be from parents or other sources.  Every kid wants to please a parent or make them proud.  That is normal.  But on occasion we have had to deal with some extreme cases of parental pressure.  We have not shied away from that responsibility either.

Why am I sharing this with you?  Because we think it’s time to let you know that we have been handling these cases for years and years.  You will never hear from us who the players are (or in some cases parents!).  We do not share these names and if you do hear them then please know it did not some from us nor will it ever.  Our goal is always to see the player learn one of life’s lessons and then continue to play the game.  I have found that those kids seldom, if ever, cross our Ethics Committee door step again.  And most have continued to play.  After all it isn’t if someone is going to fall down, because we all do.  It’s will he or she get back up?  Our job is to push them to get back up.

It’s not a pleasant task for the junior, the parents, our staff or our committee.  But it is a necessary one and it is one that we do not take lightly.

I will share that there are some names that golf fans would recognize who have sat before our committees over the years.  I am proud to say that many have returned to say thanks.

We feel like every one of the 3000+ juniors who participate in our programs is one of ours.  We also feel that every junior who has ever competed in our programs will always be one of ours.

I wish you all a great summer of golf and look forward to following the fantastic accomplishments or our junior golfers.


Tom Sargent

Chairman, SCPGA Junior Golf Advisory Board