PILOT MOUNTAIN — There’s plenty of good junior golf played in Surry County, and several of its practitioners were in action on Monday and Tuesday, as the county hosted its first-ever Surry County Junior Golf Championship.
The tournament, organized by PGA professional and Mount Airy native Steve Forrest and his family, hosted rounds at all four of the county’s golf courses and awarded prizes in five different age classifications, boys ages 12-13, 14-15 and 16-18, and 14-15 and 16-18 classifications for the girls. The girls played at Mount Airy and Cedarbrook country clubs, while the boys played at Cross Creek and Pilot Knob Park. The tournament was open to all junior golfers age 18 and younger who have not started college and who are either a resident of Surry County, or an active member of a golf club located in Surry County. The entry fee for the tournament was just $10.
The most hotly contested field was in the 16-18 boys division, where Zekiel Eaton, an 18 year-old from Mount Airy who plays for White Plains Christian School, ended up with a one-stroke victory after holding off a furious late charge from one of his Tuesday playing partners, Jais Norman of East Wilkes High.
“For the first year, I think our tournament was a big success. We had a lot of great comments from people, we had a great turnout for a first year, and we saw a lot of smiles on golfers’ faces,” said Forrest, who felt for many years that Surry County needed its own junior tournament and that it should be affordable to enter. “Whether they finished in first place or maybe didn’t play their best golf the past two days, they really enjoyed themselves.”
Eaton, who aspires to play golf at the college level, shot 72 on Monday at Cross Creek and led the field by seven strokes at the end of the day. Norman was second at 79, followed by Austin Smith at 80. James Owings, in the 12-13 division, also shot an 80 en route to a runaway win in that classification.
Tuesday’s venue, Pilot Knob, played easier for almost everyone in the 16-18 field. Interestingly, only Eaton and Smith had trouble with it. Smith shot an 84 and faded to sixth place, while Eaton added 10 shots to his first day score.
His struggles opened the door for Norman. He and East Surry standout Will Felts, playing on his home course, had the day’s low score at 76. In fact, four golfers broke 80 on Tuesday, including North Surry’s Evan Marion and Dylan Simpson of Surry Central, who both fired 79s.
Norman’s charge left him still in second place at the end of the day, but just one shot back of Eaton, who won his age division and overall title with a combined score of 154. Norman finished at 155, followed by Marion and Felts at 161, Simpson at 162, Austin Smith at 164, and Alex Hege and Connor McCann at 166.
Owings continued his outstanding play on day two, when it was decided that the 12-13 division would play just nine holes. He shot a 38 and won his age division by more than 30 strokes over runner-up Beau Callahan, whose own score of 152 was very solid for a player that age. Mason Stone finished third and Logan Fonville fourth.
Bradley Davis won the 14-15 age division with a score of 83-80 — 163. Wesley Whitaker was second and Brayden Craddock third.
Over at Cedarbook in Elkin, East Wilkes’ Ava Tharpe shot 87-81 — 168 over the two days and won the 16-18 girls’ division, while Mount Airy rising sophomore Mattie Noonkester shot 101 both days and won the 14-15 division.
Trophies were presented to the champions and runners-up in each division. A large permanent trophy was also presented, which will be engraved with the name of the overall champion each year.
Forrest and his partners in making this tournament a reality are already looking forward to 2019.
“We’re really tickled to death with everything. Our sponsors really stepped up and helped out,” said Forrest. “It’s a good tournament and it’s going to be an even better tournament in the years to come.”
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.