Byrne, Brooking to play in USGA Senior Qualifier at Beau Pré

Published 9:17 am Saturday, July 23, 2022

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NATCHEZ — The United States Golf Association will play host to a USGA Senior Qualifier next Monday at Beau Pré Country Club with tee times starting at 8 a.m.

Among the nearly 20 golfers competing in this tournament are Bill Byrne and Greg Brooking, both from Natchez. Byrne said that he thinks there will be 18 players from three different states competing for just one spot.

“We’ve got some real good players. One is Craig Hulbert. He just recently moved to Mississippi. In the year 2020, he was the No. 1 ranked senior player in the country,” Byrne said. We’ve also got Steve Hudson from Alabama, who’s won several national tournaments. Another is Michael Hammett from Hattiesburg. Recently turned 55. He’s a top-notch player.”

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Another player to watch for is former NFL quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver, who Byrne said is a top senior player at age 56. Among the teams he played for were the then-San Diego Chargers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Atlanta Falcons. He is an avid golfer and is a regular competitor at the American Century Championship, which he has won four times.

“We got several others who have qualified for USGA national events. So, it’s going to be very competitive,” Byrne said.

As for what it means to have a USGA qualifier on his home course, Byrne said, “Obviously it gives me and Greg an advantage. He’s qualified for one national championship. I’ve qualified for three – two seniors and one junior. But age is kind of working against me. Fifty-five-year-olds and I’m 67. It’s going to take the round of the year for me to qualify.”

Brooking added, “I’m glad of that. It gives us somewhat of a home-course advantage.”

Just like Byrne, Brooking will play against golfers who are about 10 years younger than he is. And Brooking said that will be a disadvantage for him.

“They hit the ball farther than me. They have more stamina than me. They have more muscle mass,” Brooking said.

Byrne said he looks forward to enjoying the competition, working on his game, and having tournaments out in front of him.

“I enjoy practicing golf quite a bit,” Byrne said. “I really don’t have any expectations. Just keep a good attitude. Look at the shot in front of me and do the best that I can. Try not to get too worked up.”

Brooking said his expectation is to qualify for the USGA Senior Amateur Championship.

“You have to expect to win to have any chance to win,” Brooking said. “I look forward to qualify for the USGA Senior Am. I’m not sure where it is this year. I played in it once before.”