The Professional Golfer’s Association of America made its way through town this weekend as Annbriar Golf Course in Waterloo hosted a Gateway Junior PGA tournament sponsored by Strano & Associates Real Estate.
Young talent from all over the region, including five top local prospects, competed in the two-day event. This was the largest tour event yet for the Gateway sector, according to the director of Junior Golf for the Gateway PGA Alex Anderson.
“There’s some top tier high school players here that will probably go on to play Division I golf,” Annbriar PGA Professional Kevin Schaeffer explained of the tournament’s field. “There’s one girl here from Columbia being looked at by Division I schools, so the level of play is definitely there.”
That girl is Columbia High School senior Allie Leingang, who finished with an overall total score of 174 (88 in round one; 86 in round two) and placed fifth overall after being tied for sixth at the end of the first day on Monday.
“The range of players is across the board, which is kind of neat,” Schaeffer said. “You’ve got some beginners, you’ve got some more experienced, some 9-holers, some 18-holers.”
Of the more experienced boys, Sam Range of Gibault High School finished day one tied for second with a score of 73. He concluded the tournament tied for fifth place with a total score of 154. Meanwhile, Allie’s brother, Nate Leingang, took ninth (156); Nicholas Hamilton (162) and Jake Hillen (199), both of Columbia, competed in the tour division as well.
A Jr. PGA event is different than an amateur event, in that there is an age limit. Golfers 5-19 are eligible to compete as long as they haven’t competed in a college event before and are PGA members. Members qualify by maintaining a certain average or handicap.
“The PGA of America is divided into 41 sections and we represent the Gateway section,” Anderson explained. “We span from Southeast Missouri all the way up to Quincy and down to Southern Illinois in the Carbon- dale/Marion area. We represent that entire area and this is the junior program for that section.”
Schaeffer says the organization is intended to help get kids into the game of golf and keep them there. Not only that, events such as this can help a local community.
“A lot of people that are here (Monday and Tuesday) have never been here before, they are new to the facility, they are new to the area,” Schaeffer said. “So not only does it bring people to the facility, but to Monroe County and so forth. It’s a win-win for the city. It’s a win-win for us.”
Annbriar hosts several PGA events throughout the year in the Gateway sector, including: match-play, a major championship for PGA club professionals the course has been hosting for more than 10 years; the junior championship; and this tournament, which is on its fifth year at the course.
You can learn more about the Gateway PGA at gatewaypga.org/.Several local male golfers competed in the Gateway Junior PGA tour division at Annbriar Monday and Tuesday. From left, Jake Hillen of Columbia is pictured on the tee box on Annbriar’s No. 12 Monday; Sam Range of Gibault High School, pictured in his approach shot on No. 11 Monday, finished tied for fifth; Columbia’s Nicholas Hamilton tees off on hole No. 12; and Nate Leingang of Columbia tees off on hole No. 11. (Teryn Schaefer photos)