In the bag: Back to school

Tommy Snell
Tommy Snell

High schools that are members of the Mississippi High School Activities Association and the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools are sending golfers to the links this month preparing for the 2017 high school season that begins March 1 and ends with state championships in May. Watch out for those carry bags.

With snowbirds flocking toward Coast courses, I’m always refreshed knowing that our members, general managers, golf professionals and owners find a place for these young boys and girls who fantasize about making a 10-footer to win the Masters, US Open, The Open or the PGA Championship.

Making Bulldogs, Panthers and Wildcats the next Tiger has been part of the makeup of these benefactors since I was a junior golfer yanking a pull cart around the Sea Course. Bobby Birch would be proud of the next generation of professionals who nurture the etiquette of the game and the responsibilities that come along with the sport.

Junior golf on the Gulf Coast has grown faster than Byhalia in July. The Gulf Coast Junior Tour and the PGA Junior League are just two examples of how organized the sport has become. The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship that crowns several juniors on Augusta’s 18th green in April demonstrates how global junior golf has become.

When I coached at St. John in the mid-90s, we had the only female golf team in the state. We traveled to Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia for events. The few girls who played on male teams played from the red tees. Now, several female teams will compete in three Mississippi State Championship classifications, and girls who are good enough to play on male teams tee off from the same spot as the boys. No controversy!

While coaching St. Patrick to three state championships, Michael Sunderman had an idea to create high school majors so that golfers would not be in “shock” when they reached post-season. That idea has grown into five high school majors in 2017 along with Player of the Year Awards. Wyatt Adkison (2015) and David Barry (2016) turned their awards into college scholarships, evidence that college coaches are keeping an eye on results.

Tommy Snell, golf coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, writes a column for the Sun Herald.

2017 High School Major Schedule

Tuesday, March 7: St. Stanislaus Invitational Diamondhead C.C.

Saturday, March 22: Biloxi HS Invitational Sunkist C.C.

Tuesday, March 25: Bank of Wiggins High School Invitational Pine Burr C.C.

Tuesday, April 4: Admiral Invitational Great Southern Golf Club

Tuesday, April 11: St Patrick Invitational The Oaks Golf Club