By Katy Savage
KILLINGTON—More than 140 golfers, ages 12-19, braved the heat wave for the American Junior Golf Association championship at Green Mountain National Golf Course (GMNGC), July 2-5.
The championship brings the best junior golfers in the world to Killington once a year. Players and their families came from places like California, Texas and Florida and from as far away as China.
For Logan Broyles, 17, of Mendon, it was a “home game.” Broyles lives about 10 minutes from GMNGC. He was one of three Vermonters in the championship tournament, though none of them made the cut to move on to the final round.
Aidan Melville, 17, of Fayston, and Broyles both finished with a 13-over-par 155. Michael Walsh, 16, of Shelburne, withdrew from the tournament due to an inflamed back.
“That’s just golf,” said Broyles. “Sometimes you play well and sometimes I feel like I’m confused out there and I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Broyles was coming back from a wrist injury that forced him to withdraw from the AJGA championship last year. Tendonitis impacted his game all of last summer. Though he didn’t do as well as he hoped at the AJGA championship this year, Broyles was already looking to his next tournament – the Vermont Amateur championship in Waterbury, July 10-12.
Broyles started playing golf at age 11. He decided to make it his sport from the day he started, his father, Bradford Broyles, said. “He’s all in on golf. It’s a game that you never master.”
Broyles won the club championship at Green Mountain National at age 13, making him the youngest men’s club champion in Vermont history. This past March, Broyles was invited by PGA pro Keegan Bradley of Woodstock to be part of his team for a tournament in Florida. Broyles, a rising senior at Rutland High School, already has a golf scholarship to play at the University of Connecticut after he graduates.
“He’s 100 percent self-motivated,” his father said. Broyles has a “relentless” practice schedule.
Broyles is up by 6 a.m. to make it to Green Mountain National by 8 a.m. He practices there until lunchtime and then drives to Rutland Country Club to play 36 holes with a group of friends. He finishes his day around 8 p.m.
Broyles competes in about 20 tournaments a year. When it gets too cold to play in Vermont, he goes to Naples, Fla., between November and March and competes in tournaments there. Rutland High School allows him to continue his education online while he’s in Florida.
The Broyles family has also converted a spot in their garage to an indoor practice space.
Like other players in the AJGA championship, Broyles takes the game seriously. The young players were laser-focused as they lined up to the tees during 95-degree weather on the first day of the tournament, Tuesday, July 3. Many of them were hoping to be recognized by college scouts.
The AJGA series is how players like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods got their start. To compete, players must earn enough stars at tournaments throughout the year or they have to qualify by shooting a low score.
The rules forbid parents from carrying any equipment for the players. Players have the option of being shuttled in a cart only where the hills are steep.
Male and female high school golfers, who were caddy-less, attached umbrellas to their pushcarts to beat the heat this year. This was the ninth year the championship has been held in Killington.
Steve Finneron, chair of the Killington Select Board, has been a volunteer since the beginning. He was one of about 90 volunteers at the tournament this year. “We have 88 volunteers in an 800-population town,” he said.
State Rep. Jim Harrison, who works part-time at the golf club, was the volunteer coordinator. “It’s a great event for the Killington area,” he said.
Abigail Wiranatha of West Covina, Calif., won the girls’ division with a 7-under-par 206, while Frankie Harris of Boca Raton, Fla., won the boys’ division with a 9-under-par 204.
Some have competed in the tournament here in the past.
Alex Zhu, 17, traveled from San Ramon, Calif. Zhu participated in the AGJA championships for two years in Killington. He said he was surprised by how warm it was on Tuesday. Although he wasn’t happy with his score the first day, Zhu won 10th place at the end of the three-day tournament with a 1-over-par 214. He started playing golf at age 13.
“I like it for its competitive nature and connections you make with other players,” he said.
It was the first time at Green Mountain National for some. Eric Stevens, 17, of New Jersey, played here for the first time last week. “It’s hilly,” said Stevens, who was cut from the qualifying round with 12-over-par.
Mia Grzywinski, 17, came from Farmington, Conn. Grzywinski finished with 33 over par and didn’t make the cut to move onto the final round.
“It’s always a challenge to get better,” she said just before she began a round on Tuesday. “There’s never a perfect score.”
Green Mountain National, a municipal golf course surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest, is known to be challenging. The 18-hole course is frequently named one of the best golf courses in the state.
The American Junior Golf Association Championship returned to Killington for the ninth year July 2-5. The tournament drew 140 young golfers to Green Mountain National.