By Mark Wehrman EBS Contributor
During Labor Day weekend, Big Sky Golf Course hosted the first ever American Junior Golf Association event in the state of Montana. To say the tournament was a success is a huge understatement.
Competitors came from all over for the Sept. 1-3 event, hailing from places like Canada, China, Korea, and the United States. Eighty of the best junior golfers in the world competed over three days in a 54-hole stroke play format.
In the end, Dillon Stewart from Ft. Collins, Colorado, who is an Oklahoma State University commit, took home the title with a 9-under-par score of 207. In the girls division, Montgomery Ferreira from University Place, Washington, hoisted the winner’s trophy with a 3-round total of 3-over-par 219.
Highlights from the weekend include the excellent play of Arizona State University commit and Libby, Montana, native Ryggs Johnston. Johnston was in second place heading into the final round with a lot of locals rooting him on. He stumbled a bit on the final day with a score of 74, but was still good enough for a top-5 finish in his first ever AJGA tournament.
There were 10 kids in the field that have already committed to a Division 1 university golf scholarship. And after the level of play I watched over the weekend, I’m sure there are a few more scholarships being awarded as I write.
What was most impressive was how these kids conducted themselves. Whether they were at the golf course, at Big Sky Resort, or around the town at various businesses, these kids were always polite, respectful and gracious.
The one question that keeps coming up from those who attended is whether we are going to host this tournament again next year. While this is still under discussion, I can assure you that, on behalf of Big Sky Golf Course, we absolutely want AJGA back.
Currently, we are working to find a title sponsor for the tournament, which would allow the event to return on an annual basis. This would be a commitment of between $30,000 and $40,000, which would help AJGA cover the expenses for the staff and interns that come out to run the event.
If Big Sky Golf Course is able to secure a major sponsor or sponsors, we will not only be able to ensure this event returns, but will hopefully be able to grow the tournament to a point where we can also raise money for a local charity and allow the AJGA to give back to the community of Big Sky.
I’m confident that if we spread the word enough, we can secure the sponsorship needed and continue being the face of the AJGA for Montana.
Mark Wehrman is the PGA Head Professional at the Big Sky Golf Course.