FAIRBORN, OH – The Southern Ohio PGA is thrilled to recognize Matt Starr, PGA Head Professional at Meadow Links and Golf Academy, with both the 2022 Patriot Award and Youth Player Development Award.
Matt Starr, PGA Head Professional at Meadow Links and Golf Academy, is the 2022 recipient of both the Southern Ohio PGA Youth Player Development and Patriot Awards for his outstanding contributions to advancing the game among junior golfers and our military community. Rooted in the principle of inclusion, Starr develops opportunities for golfers from a variety of backgrounds with many ability levels to enjoy the game of golf. Through a number of influential mentors and colleagues, he learned early in his career the importance of boosting the golf community with outstanding people. To him this means creating an environment welcoming to all golfers. Starr was elected to PGA Membership in 2007 and has impacted the lives of thousands of students through the game. In 2021 alone, he organized 194 junior group classes, a 6-week PGA HOPE Clinic, more than 180 middle- and high-school practice sessions and was Head Coach to the Sycamore Women’s Varsity Golf Team. Starr’s continual success has been recognized in the industry throughout the years. He is a Top 100 Growth of the Game Teaching Professional (2020, 2021), a SOPGA Player Development Award recipient (2016, 2019), and a SOPGA Youth Player Development Award recipient (2011, 2017).
Q: In your opinion, what is the importance of developing golfers beginning at a young age?
MS: I was extremely fortunate to have a group of mentors from a very young age: Randy Neufarth, Tom Bach, Dennis Wells and Gene Powell. While these individuals were an influential factor in developing me as a golfer, they had more of an impact in developing me as a person. Our roles as PGA Professionals are to cultivate new golfers but the importance of developing golfers at a young age is to help boost our community with outstanding people.
Q: As both a golf team coach and a golf instructor, how does your approach to developing young golfers both overlap and change between the two roles?
MS: Times are a lot different than when I grew up, there is social media and additional academic and social pressures. Golf is a hard game, trying to help my players see the big picture in golf and life definitely overlaps between these two roles.
Q: Is there a “Best Practice” you have utilized in developing young golfers and keeping them interested in the game?
MS: One of our best practices is inclusion. I have developed programming opportunities for golfers from many different backgrounds. Some are traditional junior golfers you can find at every course in the country, but other have impairments where they can’t see the ball they are hitting, some don’t speak English, some don’t have a roof over their head, some are developmentally delayed. What they all have in common is that they are all golfers. Including all these kids helps them have fun learning a new skill and be more confident while we get better as instructors to build a stronger community.
Q: Have there been any mentors or peers who have had a significant impact in your development as a golf instructor?
MS: I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by so many great PGA Professionals; Mike Deiters, Dennis Wells, Jeff Steinberg, Gene Powell and Randy Neufarth have had the most significant impact on me as a golf instructor.
Q: What does it mean to you to receive the 2022 Youth Player Development Award?
MS: It means that we must be doing something right. We try to create an environment and programming that welcomes new golfers, develops competitive players and boosts the skill and confidence of every player in between. We have an amazing team of professionals at Meadow Links (Mike Deiters, Jeff Steinberg and Maddie Nichelson) that all have a passion for helping people enjoy the game more.
Q: What inspired your passion to give back to our Nation’s servicemen and women?
MS: Those that volunteer to serve our country have always held a special place for me. It’s because of what these individuals have done and sacrificed that allow me the freedom and opportunity to be a PGA Professional. The chance to give something back to those that have done so much for me is a small opportunity to display my gratitude.
Q: How has building the PGA HOPE community in Cincinnati impacted you as a PGA Professional?
MS: I am happy we have been able to provide this program to so many. We have seen our participation go from 25 veterans in year one to over 100 veterans participating annually. It honestly just makes me feel good that I can provide an opportunity for other people to come together and share stories and like experiences and give them an opportunity to experience golf together. It’s very moving when a veteran opens up and tells you their story. The connection that has been made with some of these individuals has been very impactful on my life.
Q: What does it mean to you to receive the 2022 Patriot Award?
MS: I am thankful for the opportunity to work with the veterans in our programming. I am honored that my peers think I am deserving of this award when there are other great HOPE programs and so many doing great work to fundraise for organizations like Folds of Honor.
The SOPGA Youth Player Development Award is designed to recognize a SOPGA Professional who is a leader in youth golf, reflects the image and qualities that juniors can emulate, and provides opportunities for juniors to learn and play golf. A member’s contributions to Sectional and National youth programs and involvement in the promotion and development of youth golf at the facility and community levels are some of the criteria considered for this award.
The SOPGA Patriot Award is presented to a PGA Professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates unwavering commitment and dedication to the men and women who have valiantly served and protected the United States of America.
Click here to learn more about the Southern Ohio PGA Special Awards and to view previous recipients.