On Tuesday, July 2 the state qualifier for this year's Independent Insurance Agents Junior Classic was held at Port Armour Golf Club in Greensboro, Ga.
There were more than 20 golfers battling for three spots in the national event, which is slated for Aug. 13-16 in Houston, and Columbia County was well represented, as two of the three state qualifiers are county natives.
Ryan Blackburn (Lakeside High School) fired a 36-hole total of 150, which tied for medalist honors, while Zac Tilton (Evans High) placed third with a 156.
Blackburn and Tilton not only faced stiff competition, they also played in sweltering temperatures close to 100 degrees.
Playing 36 holes in one day, and being tested by one of the most challenging courses in the state, Blackburn tied Matt Tillman of Macon for low medalist honors with rounds of 74-76.
Tilton nailed down the third qualifying spot with back-to-back rounds of 78.
The Columbia County juniors now advance to the 34th annual IIJAC National Tournament, which is the largest junior event in the country, and boasts an amazing list of past champions.
More than 10,000 young men and women participated in local qualifying, and only 140 advance to Houston. There, the national tournament will feature 72 holes of medal play, with other activities scheduled, such as the 16th annual Patrick Cannon Memorial Long-drive Championship.
Some of the past participants in the IIJAC include Fuzzy Zoeller, David Duval and Phil Mickelson - and despite their talents, those three never won the event.
Another big name, Augustan Charles Howell, did place second one year.
But some of the past champions truly are impressive: Bobby Clampett (1975), Bob Tway (1976), Billy Andrade (1980-81), Justin Leonard (1989), David Gossett (1996-97) and Tiger Woods (1990 and '92).
The bottom line - it's a major accomplishment for Blackburn and Tilton to be among three qualifiers from the Peach State.
Good luck to those Columbia County products - and, while you're having fun at the national tourney at Northgate Country Club, don't forget there will be a lot of fans back home rooting you on.
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