The 2013 Louisiana Trusted Choice Big I Junior Championship began Wednesday May 29th at The Island Country Club in Plaquemine, LA. Some of the best junior golfers in the state attempted to qualify for the National Big I at The Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst, NC.
Two boys and one girl will represent Louisiana at the highly competitive National Championship.
Round one began with high chances of rain, but low scores were there for the taking. Stephen Wall (71) of Madisonville finished the first round with a one-shot lead over Beau Briggs of Covington. Many players were within six shots of the lead, including Blake Caldwell, son of PGA Professionals Bill Caldwell and Andre’ Caldwell of Carter Plantation in Springfield, LA. In the Girls Division, Lana Hodge (71) of Monroe led by elven shots over Taylor Thompson of Baton Rouge.
Round two began with much windier conditions that continued throughout the day, but scores were much better as a whole.
When the final boys group came up the 18th fairway, Blake Caldwell and Stephen Wall were tied at even par for the tournament. Both players found the fairway and were looking to hit the par 5 18th in two. Wall’s approach finished left of the green and left a short-sided pitch under a tree. Caldwell’s second shot found the hazard, and was forced to drop 70 yards short of the hole. “I was just trying to hit a good wedge and make a putt,” said Caldwell. Caldwell hit his fourth to eight feet, and he converted his par to finish at even par 144. Wall left his third short of the green, but was able to get up-and-down to also finish at even par. Both players would qualify for the National Big I, but a sudden-death play was required to determine an overall winner. The playoff began on the par 5 seventh. Both players hit the green in regulation, and Wall was able to convert his birdie while Caldwell’s birdie finished just an inch from the cup.
“I didn’t get in much trouble today. I didn’t make any thing more than a bogey. I played solid, there weren’t any big mistakes” said Wall. “The fact that there are two spots for qualifying makes it easier to play golf than playing against a competitor.”
Cassidy Lambert of Gretna won the Girls 12 & Under Division with nine hole rounds of 51-52.
Hodge, who will be playing at University of Louisiana-Monroe in the Fall, shot a second consecutive round of one under 71 to finish the tournament at two under 142. This will be her second trip to the National Big I Championship. She also qualified in 2011.
On what she learned from playing in the Big I National Championship 2 years ago:
“Managing my game and what shots to hit, just playing smarter; being aggressive when you have to be.”
When asked about her round, Lana said: “I played pretty good and hit the ball pretty good. I had three birdies and two bogeys. I left a couple of shots out there, but I’m pretty happy with it.”
When asked about the National Big I, Bryan Lanoix (Louisiana Big I Representative) said: “The National Big I is a highly anticipated junior tournament because a lot of collegiate coaches are there. The kids get a great chance to showcase their talents on a national stage. Tiger Woods won the tournament twice.”
“Teaming up with the Gulf States PGA is great for us because we are insurance agents and not golf professionals. We can bring both sides to the table so to speak. We can each bring our expertise to the event. The GSPGA is about junior golf and growing the game. They want junior golf to succeed” said Lanoix.
“The Island has open arms very year to hosting this event. They have great facilities and the course is in great shape. It’s very easy because we can just show up and everything is ready for us” he added.
The Trusted Choice National Big I Junior Championship will be played at The Country Club of North Carolina on August 5-8, 2013.