High schools compete in Natchez/Cathedral Invitational

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cathedral senior golfer Jacob Hamilton laughs off a missed putt on the 16th green Monday afternoon during the Natchez/Cathedral Invitational at Duncan Park. At left, Natchez High School’s Jamar White takes a swing from the rough on the 18th hole. At right, Adams County Christian School’s Jordan Arnold  leans backward in an effort to coax the ball into the hole. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Cathedral senior golfer Jacob Hamilton laughs off a missed putt on the 16th green Monday afternoon during the Natchez/Cathedral Invitational at Duncan Park. At left, Natchez High School’s Jamar White takes a swing from the rough on the 18th hole. At right, Adams County Christian School’s Jordan Arnold leans backward in an effort to coax the ball into the hole. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — A little bit of rain wasn’t going to stop local golf teams and visiting schools from taking the course at Duncan Park Monday afternoon.

After a slight delay, golfers from Natchez High, Adams County Christian School, Cathedral High School, Wesson, Brookhaven and North Pike took their best swings at the 18-hole course.

Some schools, whose teams are still trying to find their way, struggled a bit with the conditions, while others, who have been on the scene for quite some time, fought their way through the muddy terrain.

Ultimately, North Pike emerged victorious with a total score of 310.

However, ACCS (359), Cathedral (423) and Natchez High (463) had good showings.

The tournament, or Natchez/Cathedral Invitational is in it’s 10th year, and Natchez head coach Jerry Baldwin said he is glad to see how it has taken off.

“(Cathedral) Coach Russ and I have been doing this for 10 years now,” he said. “It started with four or five teams, and now it has gotten up to nine boys teams and five girls teams. The weather kind of got us, but we ended up with seven boys teams and four girls teams. People like Natchez. It is pretty here and they enjoy coming to play.”

For local teams, youth played a major factor in the competition, but the coaches weren’t discouraged with what they saw.

ACCS head coach Jimmy Allgood, who resurrected the program last year, said he is trying to continue teaching his team the basics of the game.

“The kids just have to dig down a little bit deeper,” he said. “Last year, they wanted to see how far they could hit with the driver, but the secret to success is around the green, the short game. That is what I’m trying to get our kids to learn.”

For Cathedral coach Kurt Russ, he wants to keep his young team interested and hooked on the game.

“I’ve got a bunch of 7th and 8th graders learning to play the game, and hopefully, we can keep these kids interested because youth golf in Natchez is dying off pretty quickly.”

Jacob Hamilton, the lone senior for the Green Wave, said the course presented quite a challenge with the wet conditions.

“The ball sticks a lot harder off tee shots, so you don’t get the roll you normally get,” he said. “It won’t go further either because of the humidity and the thickness in the air, so it is tougher to get it off the tee.”

The conditions also gave Jordan Arnold, an ACCS senior a puzzling challenge.

“What do you do? I don’t know?” he said of adjusting his play to the course conditions. “I’m still learning how to play in wet conditions, but every hole presents a different challenge.”

For Natchez High sophomore Jamar White, staying consistent was his mindset.

“I really didn’t change much,” he said of his game. “I just played like I do.”

Each golfer said they see potential, though, in their school’s program.

“We’ve all definitely improved and we have a bunch of young guys coming up, so they’ll be all right,” Arnold said of ACCS.

Hamilton echoed his feelings.

“We are really young, but I feel like we’ve matured a lot through the year.”

White, who is the youngest of the three, is already being looked to for leadership for Natchez.

“I just try to keep my teammates up with a good attitude,” he said. “I tell them not to get mad if they hit a bad shot, just keep going.”

Ultimately, the programs are hoping to keep golf thriving in the area, and Russ said one of the best things to do that is taking advantage of the courses available.

“For a city course, Greg Brooking has done a fabulous job with Duncan Park,” he said. “When you look through here when the azaleas are in bloom and all these trees and the grass is cut, it is a beautiful place to play golf. Beau Pré as well is a great practice and playing facility. For a town our size, to have two golf courses like this is truly amazing.”