Amateur Golf Podcast: USGA Player Development Program with Heather Daly-Donofrio
19 Apr 2023
by Sean Melia of AmateurGolf.com
Heather Daly-Donofrio’s role as the USGA Managing Director for Player Relations and Development has kept her quite busy over the last year. She has spearheaded the creation of the USGA’s National Player Development Program, which many felt was a long time coming.
After research and discussions with people around the world, Daly-Donofrio and her team rolled out their plan this winter. Daly-Donofrio is a perfect fit for this job, as she started playing the game at 15 and managed to find her way to college at Yale and then played on the LPGA Tour. She has an understanding of the challenges of finding a pathway as a junior golfer, especially having started the game a little on the late side for someone that did play professionally.
Daly-Donofrio speaks about the process for rolling out this program, the challenges and benefits to junior golfers in every corner of the United States. It’s all very new and very fluid, and it’s exciting to imagine how the program grows over the next 5-10 years as players make their way into and through the program.
On the process of building the National Development Program
We spent a lot of time with the coaches from other national teams around the globe. And I think what was most exciting to me and encouraging in those conversations is the level of enthusiasm from the other countries for what we're doing. It's almost like other countries have been waiting for the US to get in this game. It's really refreshing. We talked to Sweden, China, Korea, England, France, Spain, Canada, and Australia. We spent a lot of time with these national programs. And they were very, very generous with their time and very generous with their knowledge.
On attracting athletes to golf
We are a big country as it relates to junior golf, in relation to other countries. We're going to have more kids involved at those national levels than other countries. That makes it a challenge, but gives kids more opportunities. One of our goals is to ensure that we're creating enough aspirational elements through the program. If you have a talented athlete who's competitive in golf, but also playing football or swimming or playing tennis or basketball, that they'll they're going to choose golf more often. So we have that on our radar, too.