Three local juniors shine in pro-am

Published 12:20 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2012

By Jeff Byrd

MADISON — The junior golf pro-am at the True South Classic at Annandale is the only one of its kind on the PGA Tour.

Tuesday, three local golfers participated in the six-hole event that features four juniors paired with a PGA Tour professional. For Warren Central senior Parker Rutherford, playing in the junior pro-am is nothing new as he’s been a regular since he was 9.

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St. Aloysius’ Nick Mekus is another regular at the event and he showed his power off the tee.

It was a new experience and an early birthday present for St. Aloysius’ Laura Phillips, who turns 15 today. Phillips’ group shot a best-ball 36 and were led by PGA Senior Tour pro and Greenwood resident Jim Gallagher Jr.

Gallagher was impressed with Phillips’ driving ability. Today, she will try to break a tie with Karley Whittington in the final round of the Warren County Junior Championship at Clear Creek.

“She really has a good little swing,” said Gallagher, who won the PGA Tour championship in 2004 and played on two United States Ryder Cup teams. He also is a former champion of the tournament, having won it in 1985 when it was known as the Magnolia Classic. The True South Classic tees off Thursday with a 132-man field.

Gallagher’s comments on her swing had Phillips beaming.

“Today was a lot more fun,” Phillips said. “He (Gallagher) said I had a beautiful swing and that I needed to keep on playing. I felt all my drives were really good. One on of them, I was just 109 (yards) out.”

Mekus had to take over much of the driving duty for his group after pro Spike McRoy hurt his wrist on the third hole.

“I hit it so good today, but I couldn’t make a birdie until No. 9,” Mekus said. “I was the only one in my group to make par at No. 4 and only on one drive did the pro beat me when he came within 10 feet at No. 3. Then he couldn’t hit driver any more because of his wrist.”

Rutherford’s pro had no such problem. Boo Weekley drove it well and was also deft with the putter, making a 15-footer on No. 3.

Weekley, Bubba Watson and former Vicksburg resident Heath Slocum all played on the same high school golf team in Milton, Fla. Watson won the Masters in April and is at the Open Championship this week at Royal Lytham in England. Slocum is in the field with Weekley at the True South.

“He (Weekley) just felt that Watson had gotten the big head after winning the Masters,” Rutherford said.

As for his game, Rutherford had to miss this week’s junior event at Clear Creek after having to visit the dentist Monday. He was hit by a Frisbee Sunday and had one of his front teeth chipped. Rutherford will play in the Warren County Championship on July 28-29 at Clear Creek. He has a win this summer, beating Mekus at an Arrowhead junior event in Hammond, La.

Mekus, who led St. Al to the Class 1A state team title for the second straight year, started his summer by making the cut at the Mississippi State Amateur. He later won a MGA junior event at the Gulf Coast Junior Classic at Windance in Gulfport.