For the Love of the Game

How PGA Jr. League helped a collegiate golfer develop a lifelong love for golf
By Mandy Crow

For Abby Gattis, the key to playing golf for a lifetime is simple: just have fun.

“Golf really is something you can play your whole life,” Gattis said. “I may not always be as competitive or shoot my best, but I’ll just go out and have fun!”

Gattis is already well on her way to becoming a lifelong golfer. Next fall, Gattis, who graduated from high school last month, will attend Wallace State on a golf scholarship. But Gattis got her start in the game at Cider Ridge Golf Club in Oxford, Alabama, through the PGA Jr. League program.

“I was really new to golf and didn’t really know much,” she recalled. “We’d play chipping and putting games during PGA Jr. League practices. There was always a fun activity at the end, and I remember one time it was water balloons. Those activities helped us to enjoy golf more and not take it so seriously. We had fun while we learned.”

“I felt very welcomed into PGA Jr. League, like I was meant to be there,” Gattis continued. “I could ask questions and really felt I was accepted, like I was their own.”

Doug Wert, PGA, helped Gattis get her start in golf when he was working as a PGA Professional at Cider Ridge.

"It was so much fun having Abby in our PGA Jr League program at Cider Ridge Golf Club,” said Wert, who now serves as the PGA Player Engagement Consultant for the Carolina and Georgia Sections. “It has been amazing to see her success in the game and as a person.”

Abby Gattis playing PGA Jr. League
Abby Gattis as a PGA Jr. League player at Cider Ridge

Gattis spent two summers participating in Cider Ridge’s PGA Jr. League program, but it was just the start of her golf journey. In seventh grade, Gattis joined the golf team at her high school.

“I didn’t really know anybody on the team,” she said. “They were all older than me—not just by one or two years but three or four years older. A few people from my grade tried out and made the team, but later quit. One teammate stayed with me all the way through, and we played together a lot.”

But Gattis persisted and the competition with older, more experienced players helped grow her game. As a junior, she won the county tournament as an individual and helped her team take home top honors. That same year, 2021, Gattis led the White Plains Wildcats to a state title, which they followed up with a second-place trophy in 2022. For two consecutive years—2020 and 2021—Gattis was named Alabama Junior Golf Association Player of the Year.

That success, Gattis said, is bolstered by the support of her family. Gattis’ parents traveled all over the state to support their daughter, and she says their support, along with that of her extended family, was a constant source of encouragement.

“I have family in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, and they have all supported me and kept up with me my whole high school career,” Gattis said. “I’m really grateful for them, but especially want to thank my mom, my dad, my sister, my papaw, and my coaches!”

The honors certainly caught the attention of J.J. Adams, the Wallace State women’s golf coach.

“Coach (Adams) has followed me as a golfer since ninth grade,” Gattis said. “As soon as he could officially talk to me, he invited me to visit the team and offered me a full scholarship. A few other colleges were looking at me, but Wallace State felt like home to me.”

Wert, who recently reconnected with Gattis during a visit to The Robert Trent Jones Trail Silver Lakes Golf Course in Gadsen, Alabama, is excited for what the future holds for the PGA Jr. League alumna.

“I am so proud of her and all she has and will accomplish in golf and in her life," he said.

Wert and Gattis

For Gattis, the accolades and awards are exciting. Her successes on the course have paved a way for her to play college golf while pursuing a degree in education—but at the end of the day, she says the most rewarding thing about her golf career so far has been the deep friendships it has helped her develop.

“Being able to play a sport you love with people you love—your dad, your best friend, people who’ve been by your side since seventh grade—we’ve built the closest friendships,” Gattis said. “My dad plays, and I think golf is something we can do together for the rest of my life.”