/It’s a world-wide event at Old Waverly, and it’s also an amazing celebration of youth

It’s a world-wide event at Old Waverly, and it’s also an amazing celebration of youth

Young and old women from 17 countries and five continents gathered here to compete in the U.S. Women’s Amateur golf championship. The event will be televised by FS1 network, which includes Brad Faxon (golfing legend) and Juli Inkster (broadcasters). Inkster won the 1999 U.S. Open here at Old Waverly. This week’s tournament is clearly second. It remains the most important in Magnolia State golf. Holly Springs native Pat Stubbs made the short trip to this tournament not knowing what to expect. Stubbs stated, “Man, this tournament was huge!” This is a huge-time event, it’s a top-level tournament. It is amazing. It is a huge deal for a small Mississippi town to host a tournament like this. It’s hard to believe how they managed it. The tournament will continue through the week, with the final on Sunday. George Bryan, the founder of Old Waverly, is the one who brought a national championship event down to Mississippi. This was the same as what happened 20 years ago with both the U.S. Open or the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship. Bryan stated that we won’t see the same crowds for amateurs as for pros 20 years ago. Bryan said that while we had crowds in excess of 25,000 at the U.S. Open on one day, there is still a lot to be done to put on something like this. It takes a lot preparation and work by many people, including nearly 300 volunteers.” Bryan believed that everything was in order Sunday afternoon when players completed final practice rounds to prepare for Monday’s 36-hole stroke play qualifying round. On Sunday night, a thunderboomer dumped 2.5 inches of rain on the course. This turned the fairways into streams, and the sand traps to small ponds. The course maintenance crew worked all night Sunday and Monday to pump water out of the bunkers, and get the course ready for play. They did an excellent job. Old Waverly is a unique layout in the Deep South. It can be played wet or dry and it’s still a great layout for women’s championships. In the future, expect more USGA events to be held here. Bryan stated, “We have made sure that they know we want to participate in the rotation, and USGA has been open to our requests.” This is what golf fans learned: Youth is served when it comes to women’s golf. The average age of the 156-golfers who began Monday’s qualifying was 19.7. The average age of match play’s remaining 64 players was 18.5, after 36 holes of qualifying. The stroke-play co-medalists were Jiarui Jin, 16 years old, of the People’s Republic of China. Alexa Pano, 14, of Lake Worth (Florida), shot 6-under par138 for 36 holes of qualifying. Pano will be 15 years old in August. She is the third-youngest medalist in the U.S. Pano is the third youngest medalist in U.S. amateur history, having won the Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship earlier this year by an incredible 12 shots. Pano, when she turns professional, will be a huge player on the LPGA Tour. Currently, Asian players dominate the LPGA Tour and America desperately needs a new star like Nancy Lopez. Pano is not the only competitor. Gianna Clemente, 11, from Warren, Ohio was the youngest player in the U.S. Amateur field, but she failed to qualify for match play. She is entering sixth grade. She has the time. Conner Beth Ball, an Ole Miss golfer from Starkville was the only native Mississippian in the field. Ashlee Gilliam (18-year-old Mississippi State signee) from Manchester, Tennessee qualified at even par144 for match play. She then lost her first round match to Katie Chipman, Canton, Michigan on the third hole. State’s golf program will be improved by Gilliam. In the next four-years, Gilliam will likely play Old Waverly and nearby Mossy Oak scores of time. It is difficult to imagine a better way to prepare than by playing it in the U.S. Amateur Championship before you start your college career.