Dan Troutman said his tournament’s reputation continues to grow throughout the junior golf community.
When the E-Z-GO Vaughn Taylor Championship starts today at Jones Creek Golf Club, several highly-ranked American Junior Golf Association members will be participating, including defending champions Elisa Yang (No. 81) and Alex Shead (No. 92). This is the first year the boys and girls defending champions have returned.
“We’ve got the toughest field we’ve ever had,” said Troutman, the tournament chairman. “That’s exciting to us.”
Yang, a Georgia signee, cruised to an 11-shot victory last year, while Shead parred the last hole in 2016 for a 3-under-par 213 total and a two-shot victory. Now, they’ll each look to repeat in the 54-hole AJGA tournament that runs through Thursday.
Shead, an Augusta University signee, is the highest-ranked player in the boys field per the AJGA rankings. The field features six players ranked inside the top 300 (including No. 99 Austin Coggin of Vestavia Hills, Ala.) and 10 inside the top 500. In the girls field, six players are ranked inside the top 200, including Yang and Jennifer Jung (No. 98) of Orlando, Fla.
Players from 10 different countries are competing in the tournament. Also, there are several local competitors in the boys field in Andrew Chong (Grovetown), Alex Colligan (Evans), Montgomery Harrison (Evans) and Nathaniel Simkins (North Augusta). Jay Beach and Colson Herrin, each of Augusta, got into the event through Sunday’s qualifier.
Madison Harwell of Evans is the only local contestant in the girls field. She grabbed the second and final qualifying spot Sunday.
The E-Z-GO Vaughn Taylor Championship, which added two new major sponsors this year in Bass Pro Shops and Brighter Side Roofing, is in its seventh year at Jones Creek. The junior tournament remains as popular as ever with the players as well as the volunteers (300 are expected to help with the event).
“I think the word is out that it’s a unique experience for the players, from the private dining to the locker rooms, the whole nine yards,” Troutman said. “We’ve got more exempt players in this year than we’ve ever had.”
Taylor, a three-time PGA Tour champion, is expected to be on hand throughout the tournament. Last year, he held two clinics. Troutman said he expects Taylor to hold one or two clinics again this year.