By Carmine Frongillo
TOWNSEND — Big talents in a small town.
And from the look of things, the shine generated by golf’s next generation of young stars is extremely bright.
The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) is holding a Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy Junior All-Star Series Event for boys and girls between the ages of 12-15 at Townsend Ridge Country Club.
The first round of this 54-hole tourney was held Tuesday, with round two Wednesday and the final round set for Thursday. The event features 70 boys and 23 girls from 19 states, including California and Nevada, as well as from Canadian provinces such as British Columbia.
“We’ve never had anything major like this here so we’re really excited. To put this event in a frame of reference the next event for this age group is going to be held at TPC Sawgrass in Florida. They play their events on courses the PGA plays on. For us to even be included as a participant on that list is great,” ,” said Derick Fors, Townsend Ridge’s general manager and head golf professional.
“It’s really cool to see such good players here at our facility and in this area of the country. These kids are unbelievably talented. When I was their age there were limited events to play in. Now golf has grown exponentially and to see all the participants, and to see people come out to Townsend to play from British Columbia and California is just so neat.”
The AJGA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of boys and girls, between the ages of 12-18, who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. This summer the AJGA will hold close to 60 events, and over 90 events overall in 2012, for its roughly 5,600 members.
“We have quite a few events in the Northeast,” said AJGA Tournament Director Curt Haag. “In the Northeast region we probably have 20 events over the course of the year. We were trying to get something local to the Boston area to serve some of our members here. It just worked out that we were able to hold the event here (at Townsend Ridge).
“It’s been great. Derick and all the course volunteers working the area have been super. There is a lot of excitement. The course is a good challenge for the kids. It’s a little shorter and a little more narrow than what they are used to.”
The impressive list of AJGA alumni includes Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Former AJGA players have compiled more than 500 victories on the PGA and LPGA Tours.
“It’s hard to believe the kids at this event are as young as they are,” said Fors. “They have poise. They are light years ahead of their ages.
“They’re traveling around and playing in competitions that gets them on the track to compete at Division 1 colleges and ultimately to get on one of the tours. Not all of them will end up ending being professional golfers, but there are kids at this event who will one day be on one of the tours. All the kids here are just super golfers.”
Tyler Joiner of Albany, Ga., was the first round leader in the boys division, checking in at 1-under par 69. Evan Grenus of Glastonbury, Conn., was second at 70. Mason Weld of Helotes, Texas is one of six players tied for third at 71.
“It’s my first time up here (in Massachusetts),” said Weld, 15, who is going into his sophomore year at Brandeis High in San Antonio. “It’s nice. I like it. I’ve been to tournaments in Oklahoma and a couple different places.
“I’m exempt in these tournaments and I like playing in them. I had a little shaky ending, but I drove the ball well. I hit my irons well and my putter stuck in there, so I was happy. I always want to put up a good score so I can get noticed by coaches. My goal is to play collegiate golf.”
James Walmsley, 16, a Pepperell resident, captured medalist honors on Monday in the 76-player boys field that ranged in age from 12-18 at AJGA’s PBE Qualifier — Boston, carding a 1-under-par score of 69.
“It was really a big day for him and a big day for us,” said Fors. “He has a lot of talent. It was nice to see him put it together in a tournament of this caliber.”
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