MAKING AN IMPACT: Callaway/Meijer Junior Tour Helps Golfers On and Off Course
It has been happening in recent years, kids of the kids who used to play golf on what is now called the Callaway/Meijer Junior Tour are taking part, too.
It has been 28 years after all, and what PGA golf professional Rolla Frisinger started as the Powerbilt Junior Tour in Coldwater in 1994 has established a record that goes well beyond 28 years of birdies, bogeys and playing opportunities.
“It started as a non-profit corporation because my goal right from the start was always to try to give kids opportunities to play good competitive golf, but then to give back as much as we could in the form of scholarships based not on playing ability, but on character, on grade point average, on community service.”
Frisinger’s Game Of your Life Foundation (G.O.L.F.) – Callaway/Meijer Junior Tour has an impressive scorecard.
· A half-million, as in $508,500 in scholarships have been awarded, including 24 in 2021.
· The recent Fall Series Championship at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West Golf Course was the 1,099th event/tournament conducted.
· Over 16,000 youngsters have played in the tournaments.
· Over $3 million has been paid to Michigan golf facilities in green fees.
“My goal when I started was to give a million away, so we’re getting there,” said the 66-year-old Frisinger, who was a head golf professional at Lake James Golf Course in Angola, Ind., before taking the same post at Coldwater Country Club for 22 years.
“That’s where I started the tour and it became so big that I resigned there and just built my own facility – The Foundation Golf Center,” he said. “The retail part of it is good and the club fitting is great, but my passion is running the events, the kids. I get to know them all, yes, and we’ve had so many amazing kids come through and some amazing golfers, too.”
LPGA star Morgan Pressel played through. Jackson’s PGA Tour veteran Brian Stuard, too. Recent U.S. Amateur Champion James Piot of Canton took home his share of trophies as well. Tour membership is open to boys and girls ages 7-23. Participants can play on the tour until they graduate from college. Competition is in age and gender categories.
“I see the names in the Michigan Amateur and the Michigan Open, the top men and women in the state now, and I remember when they played with us,” Frisinger said. “It’s great that we gave them a place to compete, but the real point of emphasis has always been the scholarships, not for playing ability, but for character, grade point average and community service. That’s the impact I’m most proud of; that and having been a PGA professional on the other side of the counter I’m proud that we’ve paid our way with over $3 million going to the great golf courses in Michigan.”
Frisinger and his wife Shannon have two sons, Rykert, 15, and Reid, 10, and they are active players on the tour. Rykert, in fact was the recent Fall Series Player of the Year and tied for low season scoring average with Ian Masih of Okemos.
“I’ve been in the golf business all of my life and our sons are playing, so yeah, I’m going to keep doing this,” he said. “It’s been a labor of love and giving out the scholarships that’s always the highlight of the year.”
Frisinger said they named a scholarship this past year in honor of the late Robert Dykema, who was a Powerbilt and then a Callaway sales representative and golf equipment distributor in Grand Rapids who came on as the first sponsor. Dykema passed away in April.
“Bob used to call me and want us to do even more – he was so passionate about junior golf, the scholarships and the way we were doing it,” he said. “This year was the first awards banquet he ever missed. His son Mike was there. It was tough on us to get through this one. We miss Bob. None of this would have happened without his support from the start.”
Frisinger said the foundation also owes gratitude to Meijer Inc., specifically Doug Meijer, an avid golfer and now the co-chairman of the well-known Michigan-based grocery and retail chain.
“Ken Hartmann (senior director of competitions and USGA services for the Golf Association of Michigan) worked with us for a while before joining the GAM,” he said. “He was instrumental in helping us bring on Meijer in 2000 as a sponsor. Doug Meijer jumped on board and has been just unbelievably awesome to us. Without Meijer’s support the fees for the events would be higher for the kids. We have this thing called the Meijer Receipt Program where people can turn in Meijer receipts and we give them credit back for entry fees. They can save a lot of money throughout the year by shopping at Meijer.”
As for the events, or tournaments, Frisinger has always tried to produce PGA Tour-style events on top courses across the state. He employs 12 people through G.O.L.F. who help run the golf center and the tournaments from rules to scoring to club-fitting and more. He said PGA Golf Professional Chris Tilbury is the backbone of the 30-acre practice facility in Coldwater and performs behind-the-scenes duties on the tour.
Just this year on the tournament schedule were stops at places like Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, Battle Creek Country Club, Country Club of Lansing, Warwick Hills Country Club, Tecumseh Country Club, Fieldstone Golf Club in Auburn Hills, Edgewood Country Club in Commerce Township, Mystic Creek Golf Club in Milford, Macatawa Legends in Holland, Eagle Eye and Hawk Hollow in East Lansing, The Fortress in Frankenmuth, Boulder Creek in Grand Rapids, Washtenaw Golf Club in Ypsilanti, Candlestone Golf Resort in Belding, Timber Ridge in East Lansing and even the new American Dunes Golf Club in Grand Haven.
“I walk into these pro shops now, like Prestwick Village recently, and behind the counter is a pro who used to play in our events, and it is all across the state,” Frisinger said. “I feel like we helped a lot of people find their passion for golf and make careers, too.”
It all started in 1994 with 192 members, many of them from a large group of junior golfers Frisinger had built at Coldwater Country Club.
“There really wasn’t anything like this for these kids to play on when we started,” he said. “We were the first big tour thing out there. That we now have the kids of the kids playing is amazing to me, and I hear from people that played with us and won scholarships who went on to do great things, work for big companies, be successful in their careers, nurses, accountants, all kinds of careers and it is gratifying and makes we just want to keep on plugging.”
Paul O’Grady of Grand Rapids has four children currently playing on the tour – Maxwell who is 15, twins Sawyer and Lillian, who are 14, and Eleanor, who is 10. Frisinger calls him the loyal parent type that has been the backbone of the tour for years.
“I think we heard about the tour from the other parents at the country club we are at Cascade Hills Country Club,” O’Grady said. “The kids started playing and then they started building friendships and going to different places to play, and it keeps us very excited to come back every year.”
O’Grady said he loves the quality of the golf courses on the tour, and the way his children are treated, too.
“I love the staff, how polite they are and how organized and well-run the tournaments are,” he said. “Not putting down others, but that’s not always the case. The Callaway/Meijer tour is exceptional. You can tell the amount of work they put into it.”
Hartmann, his former employee who has been with the GAM 20 years, said Frisinger’s foundation has become a well-oiled machine and impacted junior golf in Michigan significantly.
“I had no problem endorsing the tour and would advise people with kids wanting to get into competitive golf to play there,” he said. “They are well-organized, well-run with volunteers and staff that have been to rules seminars and are trained for the job. When it started it gave a lot of kids something to do and it was structured with people out there caring how it was conducted.”
Frisinger said he has too many people to thank for helping him along the way.
“I would leave somebody out – great people, great courses,” he said. “It makes me feel good to think about the years, and I still love it when we announce a kid’s name and they come up to accept a trophy with a big smile and it’s a great moment when we give out the scholarships. Parents are so proud. For me, it’s a great thing to do for a living – using my passion for junior golf to give back and make an impact in some way.”
via Greg Johnson