City golfers absent from KGA Amateur

So much for a home-course advantage.

For the first time in years, the Kansas Golf Assn. Junior Amateur Championship will start today without a participant from Lawrence, despite the tournament’s being played at Eagle Bend Golf Course.

Heck, the KGA headquarters is at 3301 Clinton Parkway.

“I don’t see any names I recognize at all on this,” Free State High athletic director Steve Grant said as he scanned tee times during Monday’s practice.

Grant is a pro-shop assistant at Eagle Bend.

“I don’t know what the deal is,” he said. “I’m kind of puzzled that there wouldn’t be a few. There’s some that I know could compete from both high schools.”

Across the pro shop stood Levi Oxford, an incoming senior at Lawrence High who was working behind the concession counter instead of working on his game for the three-day tournament.

“I didn’t know about it soon enough. The registration filled up really fast,” said Oxford, who said he only spotted one flyer for the event in the course clubhouse.

So what about all the other high school golfers in town who, like Oxford, competed in the KGA Four Ball championship earlier in the month at Alvamar Golf Course?

“I’m not sure,” Oxford said. “That kind of surprises me.”

“I’m not real sure what the reason behind that would be. It did full up quicker than I thought it would,” said Casey Old, KGA golf programs manager.

Old said last year’s event drew 192 golfers – the maximum. In contrast, more than 40 golfers remain on the waiting list.

“This event is going to fill up no matter where you take it,” Old said. “You put this in Wichita or the Kansas City metropolitan area or even Topeka, it’s going to fill up because more than likely the kids are from around that area.”

Jason Schulte, a golfer from Rockhurst High in Kansas City, Mo., who won the event in 2003, has golfed in the event since he was 14. He had his reason for the absence of Lawrence players: more outside competition.

“I think the KGA is reaching out to a lot more people,” Schulte said. “They’re doing a great job to reach out to people on neutral ground.”

The last time the event was held in Lawrence was in 1992, when the Lawrence Country Club played host.

Participants aside, Schulte and the other players can’t wait to take on Eagle Bend’s four “reachable” par fives.

“I know traditionally the winners been around even par,” Schulte said. “I think it will be well under par this year. There’s just a lot of opportunities for birdies.”

Right next to Schulte on the list of favorites is last year’s winner, Dodge Kemmer of Wichita, who took the trophy at Emporia Municipal Golf Course last year by putting up a score of 70 for all three days.

Kemmer predicted the winner would be “double-digit under” par come Thursday.

“From what I can tell, the course is going to set up fairly well,” said Kemmer, a Stanford signee. “It will definitely be scoreable.”

Coincidentally, both Schulte and Kemmer will be in the same group today, teeing off at 1:10 p.m. on the 10th hole. Tee times are slated to start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 1:50 p.m.