Beaufort News

AJGA all-star event gets under way today in Bluffton

Of course Thomas Walsh kept his yardage book.

He knew his notations would be used again. And this year, he hopes the knowledge pays off.

Walsh, 15, is one of 78 players competing this week in the American Junior Golf Association's Junior All-Star at Hilton Head, held at Berkeley Hall. The event is part of the Gary Gilchrist Academy Junior All-Star series, which allows players ages 12 to 15 the chance to compete for spots in AJGA open tournaments.

The 54-hole tournament starts today and runs through Thursday. Sixteen states and six countries are represented among the players.

Walsh, from High Point, N.C., finished tied for fourth in 2010. He kept his book, where an X tells him where not to hit it and a check marks the safe spots. The course's large, undulating greens are meticulously charted. He brought the yardage book back for practice rounds Sunday and Monday.

This could be the year, he thinks. This is the tournament he has looked forward to the most after a strong finish his previous showing.

"I'm going to have to put together three good rounds to win, not like last year where I only had two," said Walsh, who fired a 70 on Monday during a junior-am event. "Hopefully I can get in that final group again."

Ten events make up the Junior All-Star series, which concludes with the invitation-only Montverde Academy Junior All-Star Invitational. The event at Berkeley Hall's South Course is the fifth on the schedule.

Bella Skinner, who played the course Monday for her third round on the course since Saturday, said the layout should allow for low scores. She said the front nine was longer and more challenging but that the back side should allow players a little fun.

"I think everybody has a chance to go out there and do something good," said Skinner, an Alpharetta, Ga., resident who earned exempt status in the series by winning the Atlanta Junior Golf Association championship for her age group. "We'll see how it ends up."

Walsh should be among the favorites on the boys side. Florida resident Corey Carlson won the series-opening event in Braselton, Ga., and finished third at Berkeley Hall last year.

On the girls side, Sydney Legacy appears to have a feel for the course after firing a 72 on Sunday in an AJGA national qualifier. Fellow Lexington resident Lauren Stephenson is also considered among those to beat.

Bluffton's Bryson Nimmer and Hilton Head Island's Will Miles and Saravit Kerdsinchai are the only locals in the field.

AJGA JUNIOR ALL-STAR AT HILTON HEAD

What: Part of a 10-tournament series for players ages 12-15. Fifty-four holes with cut after the second round.

Where: Berkeley Hall Club, South Course

When: Today-Thursday

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