Larkin Sr., youngest son covet time together on course at Georgia Amateur

Jack Larkin. Photo courtesy of the Georgia State Golf Association
Jack Larkin. Photo courtesy of the Georgia State Golf Association

Credit: Georgia State Golf Association

Credit: Georgia State Golf Association

The Larkin family is taking this father-son approach to a completely different level.

Jack Larkin Sr., one of the most respected names in Georgia amateur golf, is playing alongside his son at the Georgia Amateur for the second year. Except this year, it’s a different son.

This week Larkin and Matthew, his youngest son, are competing in the 99th Georgia Amateur at the Atlanta Athletic Club. A year ago, Larkin and Jack Jr., his oldest son, were in the field at the Ansley Golf Club.

“At first I thought it was weird,” Matthew Larkin said. “But it’s something special to play with someone 30 years older than you who can still compete. You can’t do that in football or basketball.”

It could have been even better. Jack Larkin Jr., who played at Georgia, barely missed qualifying for the Georgia Amateur. Connor Larkin, the middle son who gravitated toward baseball before rediscovering his love for golf a couple years ago, is carrying his dad’s bag this week.

“I don’t know if there’s ever been three. We’ve got to do that. It would be fun,” Larkin Sr. said. “I tell them I’m running out of time.”

Matthew Larkin. Photo courtesy of the Georgia State Golf Association
Matthew Larkin. Photo courtesy of the Georgia State Golf Association

It almost happened two years ago when the championship was held at the Athens Country Club. Jack Jr. and Matthew both qualified, but Jack Sr. had a conflict and could not compete. Both boys made the cut and wound up paired with each other the last day.

Larkin Sr. may be underestimating his shelf life. He was 1-under par when a pop-up thunderstorm cleared the course, but 5-over on the six remaining holes to shoot 75. Matthew Larkin had a tougher time, shooting an 81 on Friday and leaving himself with ground to make up in order to be among the top 50 who will make the cut.

The elder Larkin played on the University of Georgia golf team and served as captain his senior year. Larkin won the 1979 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and has qualified for the U.S. Amateur seven times. Partially because of his golf pedigree, he has gone out of his way to avoid putting pressure on his sons to play golf.

“I’m an old-school parent,” Larkin said. “When my kids go play, I don’t go watch them. I want them to be kids. The only thing I can do for them by me watching them is to put pressure on them and I’m not going to do that. They know I love them and I support them and want to know how they did.”

But the opening round was a showcase for young players. Steve Kibare, a recent Cherokee High School graduate who will play at Dalton State this fall, set the pace in the morning round with a 3-under 68. That number was matched later in the afternoon by Deven Patel, a senior at Johns Creek High School.

Kibare won the Georgia PGA Junior Championship earlier this summer and is playing with much confidence. He said there were a few nerves on the No. 1 tee at his first Georgia Amateur, but they quickly vanished and he opened with seven straight pars before banging home a 30-foot birdie at No. 8.

“Once I got to 2-under, I was feeling it and hoping to go bogey-free for the rest of my round, which I did,” he said.

Tied for third at 2-under 69 were States Fort of Evans, Brent Landry of Roswell, Austin Mancilla of Sugar Hill, Timothy Schaetzel of Atlanta and Alex Ross of Atlanta.

Ross, a Pace Academy graduate who plays at Davidson, is famous for shooting a 57 at Druid Hills during the 2019 Dogwood Invitational. He shot a 5-under 31 on the back, lipping out on the 18th hole.

Billy Abdow, at 14 the youngest player in the field, birdied the final hole to shoot 70. He is in a tie with Reed Lotter of Savannah, Jack Boltja of Thomasville and 2018 champion Brett Barron.