Sports Columns

May 13, 2013

Fairways and greens: Truly Open — The road to Merion

One of the grandest traditions of the Open championships — both the U.S. Open and the British Open — is they are truly open to any competitor.

Whether you are a PGA Tour pro or just the club champion of your local course, if you have the skill and the entry fee, you can go through the qualifying process and earn your way into one of golf’s major events.

Several area golfers will be looking to take that first step in the journey while dreaming of playing June 13-16 at Merion Golf Course in Pennsylvania. Local qualifiers are open to any golfer with a USGA handicap index below 1.4.

This year, 111 local qualifier competitions will be played across the United States. Georgia will host two of those events — today at Marietta Country Club and Tuesday at Atlanta National Golf Club.

Two local players — Brandon Parrish and Justin Jolly — will compete at Marietta Country Club. Parrish is a 2012 graduate of North Murray High School, and he was the Region 7-2A tournament medalist after shooting a 73 last spring at Fields Ferry. Jolly is a former Northwest Whitfield golfer who has played on several mini-tours over the past few years. He is currently listed by the PGA of America as an apprentice professional. Eight qualifying spots to the sectional qualifier will be at stake out of the 130 golfers listed for the tournament. Two alternates will also be determined.

On Tuesday, a larger field of locals will compete in Alpharetta at Atlanta National. Eight qualifying spots and two alternates will be up for grabs out of a field of 131 golfers.

The most notable local golfer in the field is Dalton’s David Noll Jr. One of the most decorated local amateur golfers, Noll has been named the Georgia State Golf Association’s Men’s Player of the Year eight times. Three Chatsworth natives — Chase Jones, Colby Hipp and Tyler Mitchell — will also compete on Tuesday.

Hipp can use his round as preparation for next Monday’s Class 3A state golf tournament at Reunion Golf Club in Hochston. Hipp is a senior at North Murray and earned entry into the state tournament as lowest individual on a non-qualifying team at the region tournament.

Jones, who recently signed an athletic scholarship with Dalton State College, is a 2011 graduate of Murray County, and he spent the 2011-12 school year at Darton College. At Darton, he was the individual runner-up in the NJCAA Region XVII golf tournament after a four-round total of 3-over-par 291.

Mitchell is another graduate of the Murray County golf program.

Golfers who advance to sectionals will play on May 27 in Ball Ground at Hawks Ridge Golf Club.

• READY FOR STATE: Whitfield County will serve as the host to golf teams from around the state as local courses will host both the boys and girls GHSA Class 4A state tournaments on May 20.

Dalton Golf and Country Club will play host to the boys teams and individual qualifiers, while Nob North Golf Course will feature the girls competitors. Northwest Whitfield High School will serve as the host school for both events.

Locals will be well represented in the tournaments with Dalton and Northwest boys teams playing at the Country Club, and Dalton, Northwest and Southeast girls teams competing at Nob North.

In other GHSA state tournament, North Murray’s girls won the Region 5-3A title and will play in the  Class 3A girls state tournament at Chateau Elan in Braselton.

Others individuals from the area qualified for state via their respective region tournaments as the individual with the lowest round not on a state or sectional qualifying team.

For Murray County, Amber Lewis will compete in the Class 2A girls tournament at Hawks Point Golf Club in Vidalia, while Dylan Hubbard will play in the Class 2A boys tournament at Rocky Creek Golf Club, which is also in Vidalia.

• JUNIOR SECTIONAL TOURNAMENTS: With the end of the school year coming, junior golf will hit the ground running with several playing opportunities for all ages.

The GSGA Junior Sectional Program is in its 40th year and will feature 30 events across the state in seven different sections of the state. The events are open for both boys and girls ages 18-and-under. Boys will be divided into four divisions: 11-under, 12-13, 14-15 and 16-18. Girls will play in three divisions: 11-under, 12-13 and 14-18. The three oldest divisions in boys and the top division in girls will play in 18-hole events, while 11-under boys and girls and 12-13 girls will play in nine-hole events.

The Northwest section will have four events, starting with a tournament at Fields Ferry in Calhoun on June 3. Other events will be held at LaFayette Golf Course (June 10), Cartersville Country Club (June 17) and Nob North (June 25). Registration for each event closes on the Tuesday before, and all registration will be done online at www.gsga.org. Entry fee for each event is $20.

Players will compete for sectional points, and the top players from each section will play in a two-day Junior Sectional Challenge Match July 22-23 at The Georgia Club in Statham.

Another junior golf opportunity is playing on the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour (www.sjgt.com). Tournaments this summer will be played in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee. The closest SJGT event to the area will be June 17-18 at the Black Creek Junior Classic in Chattanooga.

While the GSGA events are more accommodating to the beginner or moderate junior golfer, the SJGT is for more serious players and the cost is also substantially higher.

• SUNNY WEATHER: Dalton’s J.T. Foster survived four rounds of flighted play and then shot a 2-over-par 74 on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Old Corkscrew course to finish third in the Sun Cup tournament in Fort Meyers, Fla.

Twenty three players advanced out of the first four rounds, which were played at Heritage Palms Country Club’s Royal course, The Plantation Gold and Country Club, The Forest Country Club’s Bobcat course and the Forest Country Club’s Bear course. Tom Tower, of Trumbull, Conn., won with a 66. David Wilson, of Clarkston, Mich., was second at 70.

* CLINICS, TOURNEYS, ETC.: Nob North will host a junior clinic for boys and girls ages 7-17 from 9 a.m. to noon on June 3-5. The cost is $60. ... The Northwest Georgia Transportation Club golf tournament will be held Thursday at Nob North with a 12:30 p.m. shotgun start. ... The North Murray High School Quarterback Club will host a fundraising two-man scramble tournament at 1 p.m. Saturday at Indian Trace Golf Course. Contests will include closest to the pin, long drive and raffles for Atlanta Braves and University of Georgia football tickets. ... The Boys and Girls Clubs will host the Murray County Golf Classic on June 8 at Spring Lakes Golf Club. The four-person scramble will benefit after-school and summer programs which benefit more than 600 youth in Murray County. ... Nob North will hold its Spring Fling golf tournament Saturday and Sunday. The two-man, pick-your-partner tournament will feature two rounds with play on Saturday consisting of six holes of best ball, six holes of alternate shot and six holes of select shot. Sunday’s round will be entirely best ball. Also, Nob North will begin its Match Play Tournament on June 1. Entry deadline is May 27. For more information visit www.nobnorth.com. ... The Farm will bring golfers from throughout the nation to the area June 4-7 for the Clay Dykes Invitational, a two-man, best-ball event for seniors. ... For more information on local tournaments, clinics and other events, be sure to check out the Local Sports Calendar in ever Sunday edition of The Daily Citizen and online at www.daltonnow.com/events.

Fairways and Greens is a regular golf notebook written by The Daily Citizen sports writer Chris Whitfield. Contact him with your tournament information, golf news and stories how the wind kicked up at just the wrong time to ruin your first sub-80 round at chriswhitfield@daltoncitizen.com.

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