Local golf: First Tee duo stunned to learn of Tour Championship honor

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Marcus Leonard and Tatum Thompson thought they had been invited to the Tour Championship’s media day to participate in a putting contest with eight-time PGA Tour winner and East Lake member Stewart Cink.

To be selected as participants in such an exhibition was an honor, but the two members of the First Tee of Metro Atlanta were stunned when they were announced by Cink as the winners of a contest to hit the ceremonial HOPE Tee Shot on Thursday morning of the Tour Championship.

Leonard, a junior at Drew Charter School, and Thompson, a junior at Walton High, definitely were caught off-guard by the announcement – as were their parents. The announcement had been a well-orchestrated secret.

The competitive honor required the aspirants to go through a rigorous selection process. There was an essay on one of the First Tee’s nine core values, a personal interview and a playing-ability test, with the final nine holes being played at East Lake.

“It was so unexpected. I’m just so happy,” said Thompson, who wrote her essay on perseverance. “Just keep playing, definitely work on tee shots. I can’t wait to hit the first drive.”

Leonard wrote his essay on confidence. “It was a total big surprise. I’ll get through the nerves, but ultimately I’ll be confident when I hit that first tee shot.”

Cink said, “You can tell how much it means to both of them. They’ve put a lot of time and energy in competing for that – a lot of kids have. To have the honor to tell them that was really cool, and I’m happy for both of them.”

Charlie Yates reopens with new greens

The renovation work done at Atlanta’s Charlie Yates Golf Course is finished, and the course has been re-opened to play. Visitors will enjoy the new Prizm zoysia green complexes, which offer a strain that is more heat, shade and traffic tolerant.

All nine greens and the practice green were converted from Bermuda. The renovation also saw repairs conducted on numerous tee boxes, cart-path refurbishment and a restoration of the practice tee on the north end of the range.

Work on the course began in late May and was completed on time by industry-leader Medalist Golf.

Keppler to defend Georgia Open title

Jonathan Keppler returns to defend his Georgia Open title next week at the Ford Field and River Club in Richmond Hill.

Keppler shot a 15-under 273 last year to win the title at Jennings Mill, which stepped in as a replacement when Ford Field bowed out because of COVID-19. Keppler joined his father, Stephen Keppler, as one of two father-son duos who have won the Georgia Open.

Other past Georgia Open winners in the field include Paul Claxton, Davin White, Jay McLuen, Sam Del Val, Tim Weinhart and Jody Bellflower.

Credit: USGA Museum

Credit: USGA Museum

Two reach third round of U.S. Junior Am

Two Georgians reached the third round of the match-play portion of the U.S. Junior Amateur at the Country Club of North Carolina before bowing out.

University of Georgia signee Maxwell Ford of Peachtree Corners, the No. 7 seed coming out of the stroke-play qualifier, dropped a 5 and 3 decision to Carson Brewer of Jacksonville. Carter Loflin, a high school senior from Duluth who was the No. 41 seed, lost 2 and 1 to Gordon Sargent of Birmingham.

David Ford, Maxwell’s twin brother who is headed to North Carolina, and incoming Georgia freshman Buck Brumlow of Cartersville, both reached the second round before losing.