Youths tee off in Gulf States PGA Junior Tour Classic

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NATCHEZ — Two players took a share of the overall lead in the first round of the 2007 Gulf States PGA Junior Tour Thanksgiving Classic Monday afternoon at Beau Pré Country Club.

Dane Christensen of Amory and Easton Key of Meridian each shot rounds of 2-over-par 74. They are also leading their respective age divisions — Christensen in the boy’s 16-18 group and Key in the boy’s 14-15 group.

Oddly enough another pair of junior golfers from Mississippi are in second place in those two groups and still have a shot of winning the overall championship in this event. Jeremy Eyer of Hattiesburg trails Christensen by two shots in the boys’ 16-18 division after firing a 76 while Walker Barrett of Jackson is only one shot back of Key in the boys’ 14-15 division with a 75.

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But that’s only part of the story of this year’s tournament. Every year since Beau Pré opened in 1999, this event has been on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That was until this year.

“We’ve had some comments from parents that requested it (being moved to Monday and Tuesday),” tournament director Adam M. Grenville said. “It was so close to Thanksgiving.”

This year’s tournament was supposed to have had 23 junior golfers from throughout Mississippi and Louisiana, but two of them withdrew. The turnout is lower than the 26 that participated a year ago.

“We have different things going on with the tour,” Grenville said. “We have some more competition in the area. The tour’s kind of refocusing. We lost some players, but we’re rebuilding.”

Grenville added that there is some good participation from Mississippi as opposed to years past. Nine of the 21 participants are from the Magnolia State, including three from Meridian and two from Hattiesburg. Half of the 12 golfers from Louisiana are from Baton Rouge.

“And we’re looking to build on that next year,” Grenville said. “That’s (Baton Rouge representation) thanks to some of the area professionals recommending the event, pushing the event to the juniors. We’re going to keep growing the event and the area professionals will keep pushing the event to the juniors.”

What may look odd about the 2007 edition of this tournament is that there are no players from the Natchez area playing — the first time that has ever happened in the nine years it has been held at Beau Pré.