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Young Mid-South golfers enjoy the return of the Overton Park Junior Open

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – The youngest winner of the 74th annual Overton Park Junior Open has offered sage advice to her fellow players.

“You have to stay focused, keep your eye on the ball and be careful,” said Madeline West, 8, the 2022 eight- and nine-year-old girls’ champion.

“I learned a lesson from her,” said Memphis-based PGA Champions Tour legend Loren Roberts.

The 26-time winner on the professional golf tours has devoted every day this week to the Overton Park Junior Open founded in 1948.

“I love seeing the kids playing on the golf course, competing and making friends. There’s a kind of camaraderie with golf like no other sport,” said Roberts, who hung medals and pictured with each group of finalists and winners. It was the first tournament on what is now called “Overton Park 9” after a comprehensive multi-million dollar renovation of the nine-hole course founded in 1906.

WMC Action News 5’s Joe Birch with PGA Pro Loren Roberts(Action News 5)

Claire Hollingsworth, a rising junior at St. Benedict at Auburndale High School, prevailed in her 16/17 girls age group with the golf wisdom of senior players.

“I’m just trying to play old man golf. I try to keep it in the fairway and then go to the greens and two putts,” Hollingsworth said.

A dedicated group of 50 volunteers served the field of 144 players who completed the junior tournament.

Ke’Moni Milligan, a student at St. George’s Independent School, said he wasn’t enthusiastic about golf at first, but the game grew on him as he became a finalist in his flight.

“I walked into it,” Milligan said. “It’s quite amusing now that I think about it. I can participate in so many more tournaments and opportunities for bigger things: scholarships, studies, stuff like that,” Milligan said.

The event had room for 200 players and some 167 registrants, but the intense heat on Monday July 11 and the challenge of the game sent some young players off to other pursuits.

“We came back to 144 the first year! What will it be like in three or four (years)? I hope to return to the greatest in the United States, ”said Vince Alfonso, who has invested most of his life as a PGA professional teaching young people the grip, the position, the swing and the million d other little things it takes to throw a golf ball. from tee to green in a minimum of strokes.

Players in action at the Junior Open
Players in action at the Junior Open(Action News 5)

“They don’t do that everywhere else, just in Memphis,” said Alfonso, who now runs the golf program for Memphis Athletic Ministries.

The tournament was open to kids ages eight to 17 from the Mid-South who wanted to play at any skill level and for free. In fact, all municipal golf courses in Memphis allow juniors to play free year-round in hopes of expanding the game, making it more diverse, and most importantly kid-friendly.

On the opening day of the 2022 Overton Park Junior Open, organizers paired players together and once rounds were played and scorecards submitted, the most skilled golfers were paired against each other in “flights”. Those of intermediate and lesser skill were assigned to play against each other.

“Our primary focus this week was to deliver a first-class event for golfers of all skill levels,” said Dwight Drinkard, 2022 OPJO Co-Chair with Alfonso.

Both presidents remain dedicated to the Junior Open and enjoyed their first moment of junior golf glory in the tournament as children.

“I was vice-champion of the 7th end of 9/10 year olds in 1959; I still have the trophy,” Drinkard said.

WMC Action News 5's Joe Birch with Co-Chair Dwight Drinkard
WMC Action News 5’s Joe Birch with Co-Chair Dwight Drinkard(Action News 5)

Winners of the 2022 event received silver or gold medals awarded by Roberts with their age group and champion or runner-up status listed on the back. They can return to the Overton Park Junior Open webpage by next July to savor the final results and look forward to the 75th tournament in 2023.

“It’s a great place. Lots of friends here. Golf is a great sport because you never perfect it. You are still working there. That’s what’s great about it,” Roberts said.

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