Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

June 9, 2014

Ashland’s Cox hits home run in Bluegrass Junior qualifier

ASHLAND — Evan Cox won’t miss out on the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior after all.

The recent Ashland Blazer grad who signed in February to play college golf got so involved playing high school baseball this season that he failed to meet an entry deadline that would have put him in the main field for this week’s Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior.

Cox’s pitching and hitting led Ashland to a 24-9 record and runner-up finish in the 16th Region Tournament. Cox posted a 1.95 ERA and batted .444.

“We (family) just got so caught up in baseball it left our minds for a little bit,” Cox said of the Bluegrass Junior deadline.

The only way Cox could realize his goal of playing in the American Junior Golf Association event on his home course was to advance through an 18-hole qualifier Monday.

He succeeded, shooting a 3-over par 73 to earn one of 10 available boys’ spots. The qualifier included 84 boys and 16 girls, ages 12-18, from 17 states.   

“Luckily I was able to get in the qualifier and made the tournament,” Cox said. “Even though this is my home course, it’s still tough knowing you’re in such good competition to play some more.”

It also gave Cox a deeper appreciation for his first appearance in the 54-hole tournament, set to begin Wednesday.

“I had to work my way into the field,” he said. “I’m glad I played well enough to get in.”

Cale Wheeler (Morgantown, W.Va.) played in the same group and made a hole-in-one on No. 3, but finished at 79.

Cox, supported by some of his high school teammates, had to grind it out in a round that included four bogeys and one birdie.

“I putted pretty well,” he said. “Usually that’s the thing that costs me strokes, but coming toward the end I made four or five 5-foot putts.”

Cox, an All-State high school golfer as a junior, originally signed with the University of St. Francis, an NAIA school in Fort Wayne, Ind. But he will be attending Virginia Wesleyan (Division III) instead.

“I’m really looking forward to this tournament,” Cox said. “All I can ask of myself is to play the best I can and try to put myself in contention at the end of the week. “

Justin Perdue of Dublin, Ohio, took medalist honors Monday with a 1-under 69. He already had a spot in the 144-player main field. Players can earn additional performance stars with high finishes in a qualifier.

Kevin Jackson of Atlanta shot 71 to win a Tom and Pat Cooksey Award for the low, true qualifier who elects to play in the tournament.

Jackson didn’t have a guaranteed spot in the NRP Bluegrass Junior but made the trip anyway to compete in his first qualifier for an American Junior Golf Association event.

“I looked at the tournament online,” he said. “I’m not a super-long hitter. The course suits my game. I thought I would come up here and give it a try.”

The 17-year-old made birdies on 10, 12 and 13 to get to 3-under for the round.

“Overall I was solid,” he said. “I hit the ball pretty well.”

Jackson helped Marist School win the Georgia Class 4A state championship three weeks ago. He played his first AJGA event last week in St. Louis and finished in the top 25.

“It was a good start,” Jackson said. “I was 4-over for the tournament. It’s a much different course than this one. It was more open and a lot longer.”

Along with Jackson and Cox, other boys qualifiers included: Andrew Grant (Columbia) 72; Steven Zehr (Morganfield) 72; Kyle Jeffers (London) 73, Will Taylor (Princeton); Chris Williard (Blacklick, Ohio) 73; Christopher Dunne (Cincinnati) 74; Jay Kirchdorfer (Louisville) 74; and Mason Lenhart (Prospect).

Girls qualifiers Michelle Ching Suet Lee (Hong Kong) and Ke’asha Phillips (Owensboro) shot 82s.

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