Local golfers compete in state tournament

Published 10:49 am Monday, July 13, 2015

In her brief but spectacular junior golf career, 15-year-old Karley Whittington has already made quite a name for herself by winning tournament after tournament.

Among all of the trophies in her vast collection, however, the one she covets most is the one she’ll try to hang on to this week.

Whittington will head to Madison’s Annandale Golf Club to defend her championship in the Mississippi Girls Junior Amateur. The 54-hole tournament begins on Tuesday. It’s the biggest of the year on Mississippi’s junior golf circuit, and for Whittington personally.

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“It’s kind of like the Mississippi Masters. It’s a really big tournament of the year for me. I think it’s the most important tournament that I play in,” Whittington said. “There’s not as many girls as in the high school ones, but it’s very important to me because it’s better competition. These are the ones that planning to go to D-I, D-II colleges.”

Whittington, a rising sophomore at Warren Central, already has one state championship under her belt this year. She won the MHSAA Class III championship in May at Clear Creek Golf Course, capping off an undefeated high school season.

That was her second consecutive high school state title. She won the 2014 Mississippi Junior Amateur as well.

“This is the way I explain my year: I had a year that a senior would wish for,” Whittington said.

She tied for eighth and was nine shots off the lead in her only junior tournament this summer, and won the “low putts” trophy at the Mississippi Women’s Golf Association State Amateur June 29-July 2.

She hasn’t played a competitive round since the State Amateur, and knows she’ll need to kick her game into gear to become the first person to repeat as Girls Amateur champion since former Mississippi State golfer Ally McDonald in 2010 and 2011.

“I know I’m going to have a lot of hard competition,” Whittington said. “A lot of girls have moved closer and now they’re starting to play in the tournaments. So I feel like I’m going to have better competition, but I still feel like I can win it if I play good.”

While Whittington tries to stay on top in the Girls Amateur, St. Aloysius teammates Gabriel Riveros and Channing Curtis will try to get there on the boys side.

Riveros tied for fifth at last year’s Junior Amateur and is looking for a breakthrough win.

Curtis hasn’t had a bad year — he did finish second in the MHSAA Class 1A tournament and again at the State Games of Mississippi — but he hasn’t won outside of the high school regular season.

By his standards, that constitutes a slump. Curtis has helped St. Aloysius win three of the past four Class 1A team championships and finished second in that tournament each of the last two years.

“I really haven’t played good enough this year. I’ve been right there contending, messing with the leaders a little bit, but I haven’t played up to my standards yet,” Curtis said.

Strangely, Curtis is hoping a forced layoff helps turn his fortunes around.

He also plays soccer, and suffered a concussion during a scrimmage game two weeks ago.

He played a practice round at Annandale last week and served as an instructor at the Clear Creek junior golf camp, but has otherwise taken it easy.

He thinks the break has helped clear his head,

“I think it did me a little good. It forced me to take a little break, which I don’t usually do. I hit the ball pretty good yesterday,” he said the day after his practice round.

Curtis finished tied for 15th at last year’s Junior Amateur, but obviously has shown he has the talent to contend.

He said both the layoff and his recent winless streak might benefit him by lowering expectations.

“You’re not expecting as much out of yourself because you haven’t played in a week and a half,” he said.

“You don’t feel as much pressure. When you’re playing good all the time, everybody expects you to play good.”

Now, Curtis said, the trick is to actually play well.

“I played really good at the state championship, then took a few weeks off and hit a couple of slumps,” he said. “I feel like it’s getting a little better. I think if I put three rounds together I can finish pretty high.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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