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Jacob Santacoloma, of Lake Charles, hits from a green-side bunker on No. 18 during the first round of the American Junior Golf Association event at Graywood. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Jacob Santacoloma, of Lake Charles, hits from a green-side bunker on No. 18 during the first round of the American Junior Golf Association event at Graywood. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Young golfers getting taste of southern hospitality

Last Modified: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 6:51 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Local golf is getting some international flavor this week. And some young golfers are getting a taste of southern hospitality.

For the first time the American Junior Golf Association has brought one of its all-star events to a lake area course.

The group, which is designed to give young golfers exposure to college coaches, is holding one of its signature tournaments at Gray Plantation Golf Club over the next few days.

A total of 84 players, 63 boys, teed off for the first round of the three-day event Tuesday morning.

“This is a good turnout for us,” said AJGA tournament director Robert Doone. “For the first time in this area this has been great for us.”

Doone said the Lake Charles area is known for golf so bringing the junior event to one of its courses was just a matter of time.

“The community has been great to us,” Doone said. “They have taken us in and really rallied around the players and the staff.”

In fact, Doone said some of the staff has been taken in by local residents.

The event will give Gray Plantation extra exposure as well.

“We’ve got a great venue and we will put on a great event,” Gray golf academy director Bear Saurez told the American Press before the event.

He seems right. The course and area has already got the attention of the AJGA.

“Really, we could not be happier with how everything has gone,” Doone said.

He also said the group is willing to come back.

“Sure, we would be interested it talking about that,” he added. “We are always looking to have good relationships with courses and communities.”

The week’s event is one of about 103 the AJGA will put on all over the country this year. They are designed to give its members exposure to college coaches, many of whom are also members of the association.

“This is a place where we try and bring those two groups together,” Doone said. “We want to provide a service to all our members. This is a great place for young golfers to get seen by college coaches and for college coaches to get a good look at some of the younger talent that they may not get a chance to see during their seasons.”

That is why the AJGA spreads its events around, making sure coaches and players have a chance to get the most out of their summers and memberships.

“We want to make sure we get a good turnout of both kids and coaches,” Doone said. “That’s why we have them in so many regions. We want the coaches to be able to get a look at a lot of talent and keep it within their regions.

“This is a path way to college golf.”

It is a younger crowd at the Lake Charles event this week, with many of the players getting their first taste of AJGA competition. Doone said some 30 golfers in the field are making their debut as the age group is between 12 and 15.

‘That is a great experience for them to play against this type of competition,” Doone said. “They all are hoping for the same thing, they want to play golf in college. We hope this is a step in that direction.”

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