Under the leadership of Lawrence resident Tyler Cummins, participation in the Kansas Junior Golf Association has hit record numbers this summer, with more than 600 participants.
If the numbers continue on that steady growth path, maybe one day the unaffiliated Lawrence Amateur Golf Association won’t have to import its champion from Wales.
Former Kansas University golfer Conrad Roberts, a native of Wales and resident of Lawrence, has won the past four LAGA city championships.
If Cummins has his way, he won’t have to wait for one of the current junior golfers to topple Roberts. He’ll do it himself. Cummins and Roberts play together often, but this will be the first attempt at the city title for Cummins, 26. His busy summer schedule usually causes conflicts. Reading the publicity Roberts gets every year for winning is part of Cummins’ motivation for participating.
“Part of it is the articles are pretty funny, reading about how Conrad is the king of golf in Lawrence,” Cummins said. “Someone’s got to take the crown away from Conrad for at least one year.”
Roberts, the right-handed Phil Mickelson of Lawrence, and Cummins are among those who already have registered. Others are waiting until the last minute. Registration at Golf USA closes today for the LAGA city tournament, which takes place Saturday at Eagle Bend and Sunday at Alvamar. (Look for tee times on ljworld.com.)
Cummins, a former Kansas State golfer, spends so much of his time scheduling and supervising tournaments he doesn’t get to play as many summer rounds as he would prefer. The greatest contribution the KJGA makes to the world involves its pace-of-play rule. If a foursome is over the maximum time allotted through nine holes, every golfer in the group is assessed a one-stroke penalty. That stroke disappears if the group finishes 18 holes within 13 minutes of the group ahead of it.
“One hundred percent of the time we give a penalty on the front nine they finish on time,” Cummins said. “You can enforce that rule without having too many volunteers.”
Nothing like peer pressure makes golfers pick up the pace. Faster players make for better players in the long run. For one thing, young players can pack more holes of golf into their summer days if they play at a rapid pace.
Kansas never seems to be loaded with standout golfers, which puts all the more premium on the three Div. I schools to recruit the best local talent.
“That’s one of my pet-peeves, when the best players leave the state,” Cummins said. “KU, K-State and Wichita State need to get the best kids committed to Kansas schools.”
Cummins pointed to a trio of young golfers in the state as names to watch: Michael Gellerman of Sterling High and Jackson Foth from Shawnee Mission Northwest from the Class of 2012 and Shawnee Mission East’s Chase Hanna from the Class of 2013. Hanna shot a 64 last week at Eagle Bend.
Maybe one of those three one day will make his home in Lawrence and play so well on a summer weekend that he can finally knock Roberts from his throne.
Or maybe someone will achieve that feat this weekend.