Rob Siebers calls it the “make a wish for junior golfers.”
It’s the Morton Golf Foundation Junior Golf Development Grant, based out of the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento. Last year, grants in the form of financial assistance were given to 27 juniors in the area, enabling them to play in both local and national tournaments.
Both boys and girls, ages 10 to 18, are eligible to apply for grants, providing them with the necessary assistance to play a competitive tournament schedule throughout Northern California and around the country.
“It is very, very heartwarming to do this,” said Siebers, a Morton Golf Foundation Board member and the MGF Grant Administrator. “We really stress tournament play, because the biggest battle most kids fight in a tournament is nerves. They get nervous – ‘Oh, boy, this person hits the ball further than I do. They’re going to kill me.’
“The more tournaments you play in, the more you become accustomed to it and you’re not quite as jittery. So we like to have them play in a lot of tournaments. But you don’t want to play in it too many tournaments, as you don’t want to burn out.”
Applications for grants can be submitted online and are accepted annually from October 15 to December 31, according to the organization’s website, mortongolffoundation.org. Applications are now being accepted for the 2021 season.
Grants “are only used for the appropriated purpose of reimbursement of expenses,” and grants “will only reimburse expenses that are eligible under USGA and NCAA rules,” the Morton Golf Foundation said.
The online site, mortongolffoundation.org, has information about the process of applying for a grant, details covering eligibility requirements, grant funding, and eligible junior tours. Interviews are scheduled for both eligible applicants and their parents.
The MGF Junior Golf Development Grant is defined as “financial support for families to help their children learn to compete, develop skills, enhance core values and build lasting relationships through the game of golf.”
The credit for starting the Morton Golf Foundation Junior Golf Development Grant goes to Ken Morton, Sr., said Siebers.
Ken Morton, Sr., is a PGA Master Professional and the Chief Executive Officer for Morton Golf LLC. He was inducted into the National PGA Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Northern California Section of the PGA Hall of Fame in 2019. He was named as the National PGA Professional of the Year in 1998 and has been the recipient of the National PGA Junior Golf Leader Award, National PGA Horton Smith Award for PGA Education, and the California Golf Writers Golf Person of the Year Award.
“He doesn’t like to get credit for stuff. But this was his idea,” said Siebers. “Under his guidance, we started this program. It started out small, as we had five kids the first year. And then each year it seemed to double. We’ve raised more money and we’re giving back.
“If you know Ken well enough, he says, ‘We’re going to make this happen.’ And it happened. He doesn’t like his name mentioned. He doesn’t want to take credit. But a lot of good things spring from his mind.
“As far as I’m concerned, he gets the credit.”
Those eligible must be 18 years old or younger and not having entered college.
Additional requirements, according to mortongolffoundation.org:
- Families must be residents of the greater Sacramento area, defined within a 50-mile radius of Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, located at 3645 Fulton Ave., Sacramento, CA.
- Families must be “in need” of financial support to participate in junior golf tournaments and activities.
- A junior golfer must have a history of actively participating in golf.
Each grant is based upon individual needs.
Eligible families are reimbursed, as determined by an “agreed-upon golf plan,” for the following expenses, according to mortongolffoundation.org:
- Tournament registration fees.
- Transportation to and from travel tournaments for the junior player only.
- Lodging and meal costs for the junior player only in travel tournaments.
- Golf equipment.
- Golf lessons.
A minimum of 50 percent of each Morton Golf Foundation Junior Golf Development Grant must be spent on junior tournaments.
There are several junior tours that golfers can play in. This includes The First Tee of Greater Sacramento Junior Tour, Sacramento Golf Council Tournaments, Junior Golf Association of Northern California, Junior Tour of Northern California, Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, Future Champions World Tour, US Kids Tour, International Junior Golf Tour, U.S. Golf Association and American Junior Golf Association events.
“We put it out to the general public,” said Siebers, a former member at Rancho Murieta Country Club who now plays out of Haggin Oaks. “Families that have junior golfers can fill out an application to receive a grant. The first thing we emphasize is that it’s not a subsidy, but it’s an enhancement.
“We pride ourselves in trying to define what’s the best thing for the kid.”
Last year, organizers of the Morton Golf Foundation Junior Golf Development Grant interviewed 34 applicants.
There are so many lessons that can be learned from playing golf and being around the game, said Siebers.
“Golf is kind of the game of life,” said Siebers. “It teaches you etiquette. It teaches you perseverance, responsibility and fairness. You can tell a lot about a person from how they conduct themselves on a golf course.”
Siebers’ wife, Jane Siebers, is the executive director of the Morton Golf Foundation, which is now in its eighth year.
“Once we give a grant, we don’t forget about them. Jane and I go out and watch the kids playing in the tournaments,” said Rob Siebers, who retired as president of Sacramento Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Inc. “We enjoy meeting the families and getting to know the kids.
“We just want to make sure that we’re spending our money where the need is, where the opportunity is, and where the potential is. The one thing we do insist upon, is that if you’re going to buy equipment, that you get professionally fitted (for clubs).”
The interview committee takes time to talk to each of the junior players about “core value” and what extracurricular activities they are involved in, said Siebers.
“What else are you doing besides golf? Because you can’t just do golf,” said Siebers. “You’re a young person. You should be playing other sports or playing in the band or doing drama. You should have more than one interest.
“If you get to be 16, 17 years old, and you’re really interested in golf and trying to get a college scholarship and all that, then you maybe narrow your focus to golf. But as young people, you’ve got to widen and broaden your experience, broaden your activities. It will make you a better athlete, which will make you a better golfer.
“And so, we really strive giving back. We want to see these kids volunteering, whether it’s for us, or for other things. We stress how important giving back to your community is and giving back to the game of golf.”
Cameron Champ of Sacramento, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, was the first recipient of a grant from the Morton Golf Foundation when he was playing junior golf. Champ won the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa in 2019 and is currently No. 77 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Champ got his start in golf at Haggin Oaks, as he was introduced to the game by his grandfather, Mack Ray Champ. Cameron was with the First Tee of Greater Sacramento and as a junior played at Morgan Creek Golf Course in Roseville and Whitney Oaks Golf Course in Rocklin.
Champ is a 2018 graduate of the Korn Ferry Tour and joined the PGA Tour in 2019.
The Morton Golf Foundation, founded in 2010, “funds programs offering a healthy outdoor recreational environment that stresses the building of lasting personal relationships while seamlessly instilling life’s core values for the youth, disabled, and under-served communities of Sacramento,” according to mortongolffoundation.org.
“Today, the Morton Golf Foundation is helping better the lives of several kids programs, disabled programs and hundreds of underserved individuals each and every year,” the organization said.
There is an upcoming fundraiser for the Morton Golf Foundation Junior Golf Development Grant. It’s the “Kids’ 100 holes of golf fundraiser,” a team event that is scheduled for Nov. 7, from 9 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m., at Bing Maloney Golf Course’s Express 9 in Sacramento. It’s a nine-hole executive course.
“We want the kids to get together and have fun,” said Rob Siebers. “The tournament has really two purposes. It’s an opportunity for all the families in the Morton Golf Foundation to get together and talk. The other is an opportunity for the kids to go out and raise money and give back to their own cause. It’s a way for these kids to raise money and give back to golf, because we take that money and then we spend it back on the kids in the form of grants.” For more information, contact Rob Siebers, MGF Grant Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org; or go to www.MortonGolfFoundation.org; or contact Morton Golf Foundation at 3645 Fulton Avenue, Sacramento, CA, or at (916) 808-0969.
Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.