Otter Creek preparing to again host AJGA tourney

The Amateur Junior Golf Association returned to Otter Creek Golf Course in 2013, and the boys winner was a kid named Braden Thornberry from Olive Branch, Mississippi.

Last month, Thornberry won the NCAA individual championship as a sophomore at Ole Miss. Then June 8 to 11, the amateur finished fourth in the PGA’s FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis.

Could another future PGA Tour pro be playing at Otter Creek in two weeks when the course hosts an AJGA Tournament for the fifth consecutive summer?

The format for this year’s AJGA Classic at Otter Creek will be much like the format for the previous four. Once again, the tourney will feature a Sunday qualifier (July 2), Monday Junior-Am and junior golf clinic (July 3) and three days of tournament play (July 4 to 6).

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“The recipe is pretty solid now,” Otter Creek pro Chad Cockerham said. “We’ve done it enough times that we’ve improved some things. The AJGA hosts so many of these things, and they’re really good at it, so we just kind of get out of the way and let them do their job.”

Circle K has come aboard as a title sponsor for this year and next year.

This year’s tournament director will be Carly Ragains from the AGJA. Ragains was an intern two years ago when she worked the tournament at Otter Creek.

“It was great,” Ragains said. “It was one of my favorite events of my intern summer. The volunteers were wonderful. The community, the way they get behind the event, is really special and makes the AJGA look good.”

This afternoon, Otter Creek will host a local qualifier. One boy and one girl will secure a spot in the tournament field.

The main qualifier is July 2. About 10 combined boys and girls will qualify for the tourney field, which will include roughly 108 boys and 36 girls.

One of the staples of the AJGA event has been a free junior golf clinic on the day preceding the tournament. The First Tee of Indiana and Ivy Tech Community College will host this year’s clinic from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. July 3.

Otter Creek teaching pro Jeff Smith and Greenbelt and Par 3 pro Keith VanDeventer will lead the session. All boys and girls attending the clinic will receive a free First Tee T-shirt and a free lunch and will have an opportunity to meet some of the area’s best golfers.

“We have a very good First Tee program going out there at Par 3, so any chance to get them interested, to get them involved, is a good thing,” VanDeventer said.

Cockerham credited various community organizations, including the Visitors Bureau, with helping make the Columbus event one of the top stops on the AJGA tour.

“It’s truly a partnership,” Cockerham said. “Otter Creek hosts the tournament, but there’s so many people in play from other parts of the community that makes the tournament a success.”

If you go

For more information on The First Tee Junior Golf Clinic, contact Greenbelt and Par 3 pro Keith VanDeventer at kvandeventer@columbus.in.gov or 812-376-2684.

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