Long before PGA TOUR pro Patrick Reed, 28, became the 2018 Masters champion, you could have found him on the baseball diamond, where he’d tell you he was a power hitter and had “a mean fastball.”

But, as much as Reed enjoyed America’s favorite pastime, he was laser-focused on developing a swing of a different kind, and making it to golf’s highest level.

However, this Texas native’s rise in the sport wouldn’t have been possible without being steeped in the world of junior golf, specifically the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), a non-profit that grooms young men and young women as they pursue college golf scholarships, and as they navigate life as teens.

That’s why Reed has made it his mission to give back to the game that’s given so much to him.

Patrick Reed signs autographs for fans during the first round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide at Muirfield Village Golf Club on May 31, 2018 in Dublin, Ohio. Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR

Since 2014, he’s hosted a summer AJGA tournament near his home at The Woodlands Country Club in Texas. In 2018, the Insperity Invitational/Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship raised $165,000 — an all-time high for AJGA Open tournaments — and donated $140,000 to charity. In fact, over the years, his tournament has been honored eight times in categories like ‘Best Overall Open,’ ‘Top Charitable Giving’ and ‘Top Junior-Am,’ meaning the event has raised the most revenue, locally.

“Putting this event on each year makes me strive to play better,” Reed said. “To have my name associated with an event like this, and have a whole city come and support our event, I want to play well for all of them. And, I want to play well so young golfers have a chance, like I did, to make a name for themselves.”

But, beyond the numbers and awards, Reed realizes that junior golf can pave a pathway for youth to develop as human beings, first, and golfers, second.

Letters of Gratitude

When Reed attended the mandatory meeting at his first AJGA tournament as a teen, he was blown away by all of the “non-golf information” he received.

“To sit down and actually hear people start talking to you about leadership, about how you’re supposed to take care of the golf course, about how you’re supposed to handle yourself on and off the golf course, it was eye-opening,” he said. “Then they started telling us about their ‘thank you’ note program. After every event, you’re supposed to write a ‘thank you’ note to the tournament, and to people who help you along the way…I thought all those things helped me develop not only in the game of golf, but also in the way of life. It showed me how you have to treat people. If someone helps you out, you write a simple ‘thank you’ note to them. It goes a long way, no matter what you’re doing.”

Today, Reed is the one receiving “thank you” notes from junior golfers. As part of the tournament he helps fund, he endows a $100,000 ACE Grant, which reimburses families for expenses to make national junior golf — and a college scholarship — possible for financially-disadvantaged players.

The bag tags provide college coaches with quick information. Photo c/o PGA TOUR

“To be able to give back and help someone like that is unbelievable,” Reed said. “I got a letter from a gentleman this year who got an ACE Grant from our tournament last year. He played in the event, got a scholarship to the University of Houston, and is now playing college golf. For him to write a letter to me and thank me for the opportunity for helping make his dreams come true, it meant so much to me. That makes me want to grow this thing as much as I can.”

Reed also personally pays for the entire AJGA bag tag program, which is a crucial link in the college recruiting process. The color-coded tag showcasing a player’s graduation year serves as an indicator for college coaches to know if they can talk to prospects based on NCAA Rules.

“As a kid, they’re amazing. You always want that extra little flash on your bag,” he said. “It helps college coaches know how long you have on developing your game, which can help lead to opportunities down the road.”

AJGA Memories That Last a Lifetime

According to Reed, giving back to junior golf and the AJGA is something he’s always wanted to do.

“When I won my first and only AJGA event, I couldn’t believe a PGA TOUR player was giving me my trophy. It was David Gossett, and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever to meet a PGA TOUR player,”  Reed said. “Remembering that time, that’s why I think it’s important to give back to the people who helped me get to this point.”

But, beyond the long drives and putts for birdie, Reed relishes other memories that came from his time with the AJGA.

Patrick Reed as a junior golfer. Photo c/o PGA TOUR

“We were playing in the Canon Cup and it’s East v. West. Rickie [Fowler] was on the East and I was on the West. He comes out with purple hair because they’re team color is blue. We’re red. It was long hair at the time and he had it spiked into a ‘W’ for west. Those are the things you remember, sometimes better than the shots you hit,” Reed said. “The golf aspect of playing was a lot of fun, but then you’d play and go out and caddie for other teammates who were playing in the afternoon, and vice versa. There’s just something about playing on that kind of team atmosphere. You form a small family, and it’s unbelievable to be a part of.”

And, make no mistake. If Reed looks over at spectators outside the rope and sees a young man or young woman wearing an AJGA hat, he takes notice.

The piece of advice he’d give them if he weren’t in the middle of a round?

“Have fun and be true to yourself. I think that’s a thing in life everyone needs to live by,” he explained. “If you live every day and can go to sleep every night saying, ‘I was true to myself and I was very respectful to everyone that I was around,’ that’s huge. Don’t change just because of the way people look at you.”

Team Reed In Action

The give-back portion of Reed’s life isn’t bound exclusively to junior golf. Along with his wife, Justine, he formed the Team Reed Foundation in 2016 to offer support to groups beyond the world of sports.

Since its inception, Team Reed has donated to organizations like St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter in Owensboro, Kentucky, the Ronald McDonald Foundation, Fischer House and Duke Center of Cancer Research.

“I’ll always be known as ‘Patrick Reed, the golfer,’ but as I sat down with Justine to figure out what else I wanted to do with my life, I realized a lot of people, all they need, is a helping hand. It can turn their life around,” Reed said. “We love to donate to people who are starting their ‘comeback’ from something. We love helping those who are just starting to get back to their ‘normal’ life.”

So, Reed and his hardy team will continue to tee up opportunities for young golfers as they develop, and for those outside of golf looking for steady footing. In Reeds eyes, it’s a purpose worth pursuing, just as much as a green jacket.