Five local youth golfers qualify for second round of USGA Drive, Chip and Putt competition

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2024

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This year’s second round of the USGA Drive, Chip and Putt competition at TPC Sugarloaf will have a Troup County flair to it with five youth golfers — Jasper Spears, AJ and Katie Griffth, and James and Kinsey Thrasher — from the area qualifying after they all finished top 3 in their classifications at the opening round of qualifications in Columbus. 

The Troup County area is known for producing some quality golfers and these five have been breaking onto the scene in the last several years.

There are multiple brother-sister duos representing Troup County with the Griffiths and Thrashers coming from a long line of talented golfers. The Girrifith’s mother, Michelle, is the executive director of First Tee and their grandfather, Allen Doyle, won multiple Senior PGA Tour events. 

The Thrashers have grown up playing with their father, Ben, who is the head coach at LaGrange High.

Spears found golf all on his own. He tried his hand at baseball and other sports but found a level of comfortability on the course that he did not have when playing any other spot.

“I still get pretty nervous before tournaments, but I’m much less nervous playing golf than I was playing any other sports,” Spears said. 

AJ and Kinsey tore up the course in Columbus. The former finished first in the boys age group 12-13 and the latter finished first in the age 10-11 girls classification.

“I have played in this tournament before, but I was way younger and I never qualified before,” AJ said. “I was a little nervous going into it, but I was excited that I qualified.”

“This was my third time playing in it and there were not a lot of other girls, so it was not too stressful,” Kinsey said. 

On the flip side, James walked off the course convinced that he did not qualify only to find out he finished third in the age 7-9 boys competition.

“I thought for that I didn’t make it,” he said. “Last year I finished in last, so I was very happy this year.”

Katie also finished third with this being the first time she ever tried her hand at qualifying.

“This was my first time doing it, so I was pretty stressed,” she said. “I was pretty nervous going into it.”

Jasper finished third in the age 12-13 bracket for boys to punch his ticket. 

The five will make their way to TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth on Aug. 4. If any of the five finish top 2 in their classification at TPC Sugarloaf, they will qualify for the final round of qualification at Sea Island on Sept. 15. The winner of each classification at Sea Island books a spot at Augusta National next spring for the National Championships.