High School Sports

Davidson earns trip to Junior PGA National Championship

The only player returning on an Althoff golf team which placed in the top six at the Class 2A State Golf Tournament last season, Dylan Davidson will find himself in a new role this season as the leader and captain of a very young Crusaders squad.

Davidson is spending the summer preparing for that role.

Competing in the local qualifying tournament for the Junior PGA National Championship last week at Lake Forest Country Club in Lake St. Louis, Missouri, Davidson proved he is ready to meet that role as took medalist honors with a 36-hole total 151.

With reigning Class 3 Missouri state champion Michael O’Keefe hovering close behind throughout the second round, Davidson played the final 10 holes at Lake Forest Country Club 2-under par to finish with an even par 72. Davidson’s 151 total was one stroke better than O’Keefe as he gained a trip to the Junior PGA Championship in August at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, Rhode Island.

It’s been a good summer so far. I haven’t had a round over 80, and my scoring average is right around 75,’’ Davidson said. “Actually I had my high round of the summer (79) and my low round of 72 at the tournament. I played really well the second round.

“I hit a lot of fairways, and when I did miss one, it wasn’t a bad miss. I wasn’t in a place where I would make a big number on a hole. Lake Forest was probably one of the toughest courses I have played.’’

Competing in the boys 15-18 age group, Davidson will compete against some of the nation’s top junior players later this Summer at Wannamoisett Country Club. Many top PGA and LPGA tour members including Billy Andrade, Stewart Cink, Chris Couch, Trevor Immelman, Cristie Kerr, Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson, D.A. Points, Pat Perez, Sean O'Hair, Grace Park, In-Bee Park, Lexi Thompson, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods have played in the Junior PGA Championship.

A changed player

Davidson, a two-year starter for coach Dan Polites’ Althoff squad, was in the Crusaders top three players throughout this past season and was an all-South Seven Conference and Belleville News-Democrat All-Area player in 2016.

But perhaps realizing that he will be the Crusaders leader both on and off the course during the ‘16 season, Davidson has taken his game to another level in the past few months.

“The difference and what I’m doing better now is that I’m playing smarter,’’ Davidson said. “I’m hitting a lot more irons off the tee. I’m hitting a lot of 3-irons instead of going to the driver on each hole. I’m putting very well too. I’m right around 30 putts for each round. That’s pretty good.’’

Playing Lake Forest

Davidson said Lake Forest was similar to the Crusaders home course of Stonewolf. Longer and more challenging holes along with lightning-fast greens made the first round a real test for many of the players including himself on the first day.

“I didn’t play bad the first day. The course is longer then what we play in the high school season and the greens were fast. They were similar to Stonewolf and those at St. Clair Country Club,’’ Davidson said. “I didn’t have many chances to make birdies But by hitting more fairways in the second round, I was able to hit it closer and make some putts.’’

The trip to Rhode Island

Davidson, who plays in Gateway Junior PGA Tournaments and other events throughout the summer, will compete in the Junior PGA National Championship, Aug. 9-13 at Wannamoisett Country Club. Tryouts for the Althoff golf team begin the following week.

“I know it’s a 72-hole tournament, and there is a 36-hole cut after the first two days,’’ Davidson said. “There will be some of the top players in the nation at the tournament and so you know the scores will be good. My goal is to go out and play the best I can and enjoy the experience.

“I’m not sure what the cut will be. If I can play two solid rounds, I’ll be happy.’’

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean