Kentucky high school’s Mr. Golf award-winner of the past two seasons and two-time defending girls’ champion Haylee Harford headline the field for the 31st annual Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior.
The 54-hole event conducted by the American Junior Golf Association begins at 7:30 this morning at Bellefonte Country Club.
Pre-tournament activities concluded Tuesday with a morning practice round, afternoon Junior-Am Fundraising Tournament and Junior-Am Dinner and Awards Reception.
Billy Tom Sargent, from Georgetown, hopes to add a Bluegrass Junior title to his resume before beginning his college career at Western Kentucky University this fall.
Sargent won the point-based Kentucky Mr. Golf award as a junior and senior at Scott County High School.
Last year, Sargent shot 211 at the Bluegrass Junior to place fourth. Runner-up Nabeel Khan of Westerville, Ohio, is also back to pursue the title after posting a 208 to finish one shot behind winner Patrick Martin.
Luke Miller of Venetia, Pa., is the highest-ranked boy in the tournament at No. 160 in the Polo Golf Rankings. Miller began AJGA play in 2008 and has eight Top 15 finishes, highlighted by a third-place showing last year at Penn State.
Grayson’s Ryan Gillum made a strong showing in last year’s Bluegrass Junior, shooting 67 in the first round on the way to a tie for eighth place. Gillum recently won a Kentucky Amateur qualifier at BCC with a score of 72.
Harford, from Leavittsburg, Ohio, will be trying to become only the second player in tournament history to win three consecutive championships here. She captured the 2013 title in dramatic fashion by sinking a 50-foot putt on the final hole for a one-stroke victory.
Harford, a Furman University commit, is No. 64 in the Polo rankings and has eighth Top 10 finishes in AJGA competition.
Elsa Moberly of Science Hill, is the second-highest ranked player in the girls division at No. 122. She has verbally committed to Mississippi State.
“It’s amazing, the quality of young golfers that come through here year after year,” said Co-Tournament Chairman Jeff Conley. “As always, we’re appreciative to the Bellefonte membership for sharing their course and the club.”
Ashland’s Evan Cox was among 12 players to earn spots in the Bluegrass Junior via Monday’s 18-hole qualifier.
Other local Kentucky players competing this week will be Drew Burke, Logan Jones, Tate Justus, Baylee Salyers and Bryson Bennett.
The 144-player field representing 17 states and five countries will be cut following Thursday’s second round.
The Bluegrass Junior is one of five AJGA tournaments being conducted this week. Others include an All-Stars event in Plano, Tex.; Rolex Girls Junior Championship in Rochester, N.Y.; FootJoy Invitational in Greensboro, N.C.; and an open tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Kentucky’s other AJGA tournament in 2014 will be played at Crooked Creek Golf Club in London next month.
Former AJGA alumni, including Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Paula Creamer, have amassed more than 500 wins on the PGA and LPGA Tours.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.