Youth Player Development Award Winner, Erin Diegel, Found her Niche Working with Youth
Fittingly, the 2018 Colorado Section Youth Player Development Award is being presented to Erin Diegel, PGA, Assistant Professional at Legacy Ridge Golf Course. It is known that Diegel has a passion for anything and everything kids.
“It is such an honor to be recognized for this award by people who are in the golf business,” says Diegel. “However, none of these accomplishments were made all on my own; I didn’t do any of this by myself. I have such a wonderfully supportive staff and a department that listens to my ideas and lets me run. I thank them for trusting me.”
Diegel originally got into golf because of her father, Lee Hall, who ran the Pikes Peak Junior Program in Colorado Springs. By the age of 8, she was already playing a fair amount of golf, as well as competing. The lack of a girl’s high school golf program led Diegel to hang-up her clubs for a while. It wasn’t until she was a senior at the University of Colorado as an Evan’s Scholar, that the school introduced a girl’s golf program. She officially picked the clubs back up and had the honor of being selected as the captain of this inaugural girl’s golf team. Upon graduation, was asked to be the team’s assistant coach.
“Working with the CU team filled a void for me and gave me a direction,” shares Diegel. “Because of this experience, I made the decision to enroll in the PGA Program.”
Looking back on her career, Diegel realizes that all of the little steps she took along the way helped her to find her niche of teaching golf to kids. While working at GolfTec, she started Girl Power Golf, a girl’s only program. Although the program was run on her own time, she was allowed to use GolfTec’s facilities to give lessons to the 48 participants. From there, Diegel accepted the position as the first Junior Golf Director with the Colorado PGA.
“We were on the cutting edge of programming for young golfers,” remembers Diegel. “It was a very exciting time to be in this position as we were launching programs like PGA Jr. League and Drive Chip and Putt. We were expanding and growing the Golf in Schools program and mentoring other golf Professionals to improve, grow and retain more junior golfers.”
It was her work as Junior Golf Director that introduced her to the City of Westminster and their ambition to grow their junior golf program. When the assistant golf professional position at Legacy Ridge became available, Diegel was able to step in and make the vision she had helped create come to life. She is now completing her fourth season at the club.
“Being able to see how the tools, people and all the little things that I didn’t even know were important at the time lead me to where I am today is very cool,” concludes Diegel. “You don’t know how it all fits together until you look back—how each decision played such a large role in the future.”
What does it mean to you to receive the Colorado Section Youth Player Development Award?
It is such an honor to be nominated and recognized by my fellow golf professionals who are doing the same thing I do on a daily basis.
However, for me, the honor isn’t necessarily the award. The real honor is knowing that I have, I am and I will continue to provide an opportunity for our youth to find a love of the game of golf.
What do you believe are the qualities you possess that support your nomination for this award?
Showing up, working hard and never giving up. I think the big thing for youth player development is having a passion and a love for children and for growing the game of golf. I believe I have a knack for seeing a vision and helping other to see that vision with me. We collaborate and then we go out and crush it!
Having a difficult time critiquing herself, Diegel solicited feedback about the qualities she possesses from fellow golf professionals and parents who provided a common response – “She has the ability to lead without really knowing it. She leads by example and isn’t afraid to jump in and get the job done.”
What are some tools you use in your profession that you wish you had known when you were beginning your career?
When I look at the opportunities for kids and how it relates to golf, I just wish we had some of our current tools a lot earlier, like PGA Jr. League, Operation 36 Golf and Golf In Schools. These are easy to succeed programs, they’re fun and I believe they have a huge impact on where we are today with golfers and our market. Knowing how kids learn and how to keep them engaged in the game would have also been great information to have when I first started.
As it relates to golf, what is the best piece of advice you have received and what advice would you give to others?
There are many aspects of the industry; find something that you are good at and that you are passionate about and make a name for yourself in that niche.
I don’t remember who gave me that advice but I would pass it along to others. Also, I would say, don’t ever be afraid to do something different. Get out of the status quo and don’t be afraid to do something first. You might fail and that’s okay but you might also do something really awesome.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Looking back, I think the biggest thing I would say to my 18-year-old self is don’t sweat the small stuff. It is always okay to step back from something, breath and try again tomorrow. Things always work out.
What is your proudest moment as a golf professional?
My proudest moment is still the day I earned my PGA Membership. As I look back, my membership opened so many doors and created this really wonderful career for me.
Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
I’m an avid big-game bow hunter. It is a unique challenge both mentally and physically – deer, elk, bear, antelope…every critter has a different approach. I get great satisfaction out of living a true field to plate lifestyle and I contribute to conservation and preservation more now than I ever did as a non-hunter.