On an unusually tolerable late June morning/early afternoon at Wedgewood Public Golf Course Monday, the Larry Pittman Memorial/Wilson County Junior Golf Championship made a triumphant return.
With some unseasonably cool weather, heat wasn’t nearly as big of a challenge for the golfers as it was in 2021. On the course, however, the junior golfers had to contend with some fierce competition in the different age groups.
There could be a bit of a shakeup from last year’s champions. Bree Council, who won both her age group and the overall girls championship in 2021, led the 15-18 girls age group Monday with an 80 on day one.
On the boys’ side, however, a change could be afoot. Drew O’Neal will have his work cut out for him on day two if he wants to defend his 2021 title, as he finished second in his age group, despite having a very strong day with a 74. The problem for Drew is the group’s leader, one he’s used to competing alongside at Beddingfield High, had an outstanding day.
Nate O’Neal shot a blistering 62 on the first day, putting him 12 strokes in the lead for that age group going into day two.
This is the tournament’s 43rd year running, and it represents a chance for young golfers from around Wilson County to test themselves against some of the best local golfers from their own age group.
Joe Ricks is the Tournament Organizer for the fourth year (he’s run three tournaments in that time, the 2020 edition was canceled), along with his daughter, Kayla Champion, who participated when she was 10 years old.
“It’s great,” Ricks said. “We love it. All the kids that come out seem to have a good time. We enjoy putting it on, all of the adults. We couldn’t do it with all the adults helping, the officers’ parents. The kids are actually officers, and they make the decisions based on the adult advisors helping, which are their parents. That makes it a lot easier with them helping out. Kayla started playing in it when she was 10, and we’ve been involved with it ever since. We’ve been involved with it for 14 years.”
The lowest overall score on the day belonged to Thomas Layton of the boys 8-and-under age group, as he shot a 19 on five holes to lead his group by 12 strokes.
For Layton, the tournament represents a chance to test himself against other strong young golfers.
“It’s pretty fun,” Layton said. “It’s challenging; other kids are good and mostly better than you. That gives you a challenge.”
Many of the young golfers, such as Kensley Hill, who led the girls 11-12 field with a 49, took a moment to appreciate getting to play on one of Wilson’s top golf courses.
“It’s a nice course,” Hill said. “I like playing out here. It shows me I’m lucky to be able to do this.”
There’s plenty left to be settled going into the tournament’s second day. In the boys 9-10 age group, Bowman Smith took a two-stroke lead over Donovan Lamm with a 26. In the boys 11-12 group, things are similarly tight, with Joseph Butts Jr. at 46 over nine holes holding a three-stroke lead over Nathan Skinner.
In the boys 13-14 group, it’s Jacob Thomason and Connor McIntosh leading the way with a 49, just ahead of Noah Allegood at 50. In the boys 15-16 group, Joey Tamayo leads with a 41, five strokes ahead of the next two golfers tied at 41.
In the girls’ groups, Ellee Gorman leads the 9-10 group with a 25 on five holes, while Hill leads 11-12, Council leads 15-18 and Payton Durham, the lone entry in the 13-14 group, shot a 97 on day one.
One of the biggest benefits of the tournament for the young golfers is getting a chance to test and challenge themselves against other strong golfers from around the area and figure out what they need to do to improve their games.
“When you face challenging people, it helps you strive to get better,” Smith said.
For Ricks and the other adults involved in putting on the event, seeing the junior golfers on the links represents the future of golf in Wilson County, and serves as an opportunity to grow the game.
“I think it helps a lot,” Ricks said. “Especially when we get the newer kids. Because we’ve got several new kids. We’ve got several with different obligations that couldn’t make it this year, but we’ve got a lot of new kids. I think it helps a lot. It gets the community involved with all the sponsorships. It gets the name out there a little more at the golf courses, and if it weren’t for the younger people coming along, golf would die out.”
Round 1 Junior Golf Results
Monday’s first-round scores from the 43rd Larry Pittman Memorial/Wilson County Junior Golf Championship, held at Wedgewood Public Golf Course. Competitors are listed by age-group division.
Boys 8-and-under (5 holes)
Thomas Layton 19
William Skinner 31
Beau Gorman 33
Dallas Pope 35
Matthew Layton 36
Braxton Barnett, Connor Barnette 40
Boys 9-10 (5 holes)
Bowman Smith 26
Donovan Lamm 28
Hawk Delonno 31
Fisher Raper 36
Boys 11-12 (9 holes)
Joseph Butts Jr. 46
Luke Allegood 47
Nathan Skinner 49
RJ Garris 52
Dawson Raper 64
Griffin Crawley 68
Conner McIntosh 49-44—93
Zachary Owens 51-47—98
Noah Allegood 50-48—98
Jacob Thomason 49-59—108
Brayden Boswell 59-63—122
Noah Craft 68-68-136
Brayden Joyner 39-44—83
Joey Tamayo 41-46—87
Hank Berry 46-44—90
Zachary Hill 46-47—93
Mitchell Davis 47-47—93
Gavon Craft 54-58—112
Nate O’Neal 30-32—62
Drew O’Neal 39-35—74
Jacob Kearney 39-37—76
Payne Stinagle 39-39—78
David Watson 41-41—82
Ryan Gay 43-41—84
William Fogleman 41-48—89
Bryce Batten 50-48—98
Girls 8-and-under (5 holes)
Reagan Durham 29
Addison Lovett 39
Girls 9-10 (5 holes)
Ellee Gorman 25
Noelle Goodrich 35
Girls 11-12 (9 holes)
Kensley Hill 49
Loulie Harrison 53
Payton Durham 48-49-97
Bree Council 43-37-80
Avery Briley 43-51-94
Cassidy Kyles 66-68-134
Tee times for the second round Tuesday at Willow Springs Country Club are as follows:
8 a.m. Girls 8U — Keagan Durham, Addison Lovett
8:10 a.m. Boys 8U — Dallas Pope, Connor Barnette, Braxton Barnette
8:20 a.m. Boys 8U —Thomas Layton, William Skinner, Beau Gorman, Matthew Layton
8:30 a.m. Girls 9-10 — Ellee Gorman, Noelle Goodrich
8:40 a.m. Boys 9-10 — Bowman Smith, Donovan Lamm, Hawk Delonno Raper Asher
All other tee times 8 a.m.
13-14 Boys Group A Jacob Thomason, Brayden Boswell, Noah Craft
Group B Conner McIntosh, Noah Allegood Zachary Owens
11-12 Boys Group A Griffin Crawley, Dawson Raper, RJ Garris
Group B Joseph Butts Jr., Luke Allegood, Nathan Skinner
11-12 Girls Loulie Harrison, Kensley Hill
13-14/15-18 Girls Group A Payton Durham, Cassidy Kyles
Group B Avery Briley, Bree Council
15-16 Boys Group A Davis Mitchell, Zachary Hill, Gavin Craft
Group B Brayden Joyner, Joey Tamayo, Hank Berry
17-18 Boys Group A David Watson, Rylan Gay, Will Fogleman Bryce Batten
Group B Nate O’Neal, Drew O’Neal, Jacob Kearney, Payne Stinagle