Beat goes on for AJGA event despite small changes

From a switch in the pre-tournament activities to the loss of its title sponsor, this year’s Otter Creek Junior Championship will have a slightly different look.

But other than that, not a lot will be different in the fourth year that Otter Creek has hosted an American Junior Golf Association event than in the previous three.

“The tournament has run pretty well the last couple of years,” Otter Creek head pro Chad Cockerham said. “We really haven’t changed anything formula-wise. AJGA does this week in and week out, and they’re pretty amazing about how they run them.”

The tourney, as it has the previous three years, will be Tuesday through Thursday. All 144 entrants will play 18 holes Tuesday and 18 Wednesday before the boys and girls fields are cut in half for Thursday’s final round.

The preceding events, however, have been flip-flopped. The Junior Am and First Tee Clinic will be Sunday, and the tournament qualifier will be Monday morning.

The clinic, which is free for kids, will be led by The First Tee and Indiana Golf Association and will use SNAG golf equipment. SNAG, which stands for “Starting New At Golf,” features oversized plastic equipment for young kids learning the game.

“It will be a lot different in that it is not as much a demonstration from a player than kids will have a chance to participate,” tournament chairman John Fairbanks said. “It will be a little less demonstration and a little more hands-on.”

In 2013 and 2014, pro golfer and UnderArmour representative Jeff Overton led the clinics. Last year, Overton wasn’t able to make it to the clinic because of a scheduling conflict.

Last year was UnderArmour’s final year as a three-year title sponsor.

“We have a good relationship with AJGA, so we’re not changing anything with the tournament; we’re just funding it a little different,” Fairbanks said. “I think it’s important to get somebody that’s willing to commit long-term, and we just didn’t have that this year. AJGA likes our facility and wanted to bring it back this year, and we hope to find a title sponsor for the 2017 event.”

So far, only two local players are entered in the tournament. Bryce Turner, who will be a senior at Columbus North, and Danbi Kim, who will be a junior at North, return after playing in last year’s event and picking up sponsor exemptions.

About 100 golfers, including Columbus East’s Mark Mayhew, will play in Monday’s qualifier. Only the top six boys and the top four girls will gain entry into the tourney field.

“We’re excited about the field that’s coming in,” Fairbanks said. “The golf course is in great condition.”

The event will feature golfers ages 12 to 19. Numerous states and four foreign countries will be represented.

Last year’s winners were Roswell Sinclair of Stuart, Florida, and Lauren Hartlage of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Sinclair scorched Otter Creek for a course-record 9-under-par 63 on the final day to finish at 5-under 211, while Hartlage carded a 6-under 210 for 54 holes.

“The kids are so good, if they have good weather conditions, it’s going to be great scoring,” Cockerham said. “Length is not an issue for these kids. They hit it so far. If they have good weather, they’ll have some low scores.”

If you go

Schedule for the Otter Creek Junior Championship

Sunday

8 a.m.: Junior Amateur

1 p.m.: First Tee Clinic

Monday

8 a.m.: Qualifier

Tuesday

7 a.m.: First round

Wednesday

7 a.m.: Second round

Thursday

7 a.m.: Final round

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.