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Posted April 5, 2016, 5:15 pm
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Golf numbers show game on rise

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    Golf numbers show game on rise
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    Patrons watch the action on No. 15 green during the second practice round at Augusta National Golf Club.


Golf’s popularity appears to be on the upswing again.

According to World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona, about 2.2 million new golfers took up the game last year in the United States.

“It’s unbelievable what we’re seeing right now,” Mona said. “Golf hasn’t seen an increase in popularity like this since 2000 when 2.4 million people began playing. And remember, 2000 was when Tiger (Woods) started peaking.”

The number of youth golfers (ages 6 to 17) grew 20 percent between 2010 and 2015, from 2.5 million to 3 million, according to the foundation.

Mona credits the increase to four programs: Drive, Chip and Putt; PGA Junior League Golf; USGA Girls Golf; and The First Tee Junior Golf Program.

Mona also credits the Masters Tournament for boosting the desire of kids to play golf.

“Obviously, what Augusta National has done with the Drive, Chip and Putt has been huge,” Mona said. “They’ve invested in a program that helps stimulate participation. But in addition to that, when kids turn on their TV and see Jordan Spieth and Augusta, they see Rory McIlroy at Augusta, these kids see great athletes playing at a world-class venue and it makes them want to achieve the same goals. The Masters’ influence cannot be overstated.”

The numbers have continued to soar early in 2016. Statistics from the foundation show golf rounds in February were up 10.5 percent from the same time last year. In the mid-Atlantic region, golf courses experienced a 293 percent gain compared with last year.

“It’s not slowing down,” Mona said. “There’s no question the future of golf looks extremely bright.”