County courses host first junior tournament

Highlighter green and orange cones marked the youngest group’s tee-box on the fairways.

Lana Wisler, 8, of Immanuel Lutheran — who stands about a foot taller than her golf bag — drove her yellow ball from 50 yards towards the cup.

She took a couple of putts once reaching the green but finished hole No. 1 with a bogey.

This past weekend, Fitness 1440 Seymour hosted an inaugural Jackson County Junior Golf Championship.

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Saturday, the 14-golfer field started the tournament at Seymour Country Club before concluding competition Sunday at Shadowood Golf Course.

Minus the 16-18 age group which played 18 on Day 2 at Shadowood, the golfers played nine holes at both courses.

The tournament was open only to Jackson County junior golfers.

Ben Wisler, a Class A certified PGA coach, organized the event.

Wisler, who moved to Jackson County from Elkhart County five years ago, hopes to grow the sport in the area.

“I decided to do this because I didn’t see one here,” Wisler said. “I felt like it’s something we needed here in Jackson County. I had it growing up. It helps the kids get involved and grow the game of golf in general.”

Wisler, who works at Fitness 1440, also coaches PGA Junior League teams in the 13U and 16U divisions.

There were four divisions, boys and girls, ranging from 8 to 18 years old for the golf championship.

Depending on their age, the golfers played on shortened courses.

“We have short tees based off the U.S. Kids Golf Tour has done it,” Wisler said. “It helps them shoot lower scores. Often times, even adults play too far back. The players struggle and get frustrated and stop playing. A lot of these kids are starting out playing. They might get to the green in one shot, but their short game isn’t developed yet. We counted a bogey as a maximum score.

“It’s different. It teaches you to go low with the scores. You can’t learn to make a birdie putt if you don’t have birdie putts. It’s completely different than if it’s a 10-foot putt for birdie or bogey.”

Seymour middle school’s Zach Storey, 13, went out because he wanted to get back on the links.

“I just wanted to see how I would do,” Storey said. “I haven’t played in a while, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get out and play. I hit on the range well, and I think it has reflected on the course. I plan on doing more tournaments in the future. I like the competition.”

For Brownstown Central incoming junior Hunter Browning, the tournament offered another chance to hone-in on his skills.

“I’ve been playing a bunch this summer,” Browning said. “It’s a new event that I’ve never played in and I want to experience new things. I’ve been focusing on hitting fairways and greens. I love golf, so I look forward to coming back. It wasn’t a big draw, so I’ve been focusing on the course and nothing else.”

Lana, Brian’s daughter, liked hitting the long ball most.

“My favorite part is driving but I also like putting,” Lana said.”I like to hit the ball from far distances and make it in. I think I will play in more tournaments in the future, it’s just fun to play.”

Next year, Wisler hopes to draw more highschoolers with an earlier playing date.

“I wasn’t able to get it going as early as I would like,” Wisler said. “I would like to play the tournament earlier next year. I think it will help attract more high school golfers because it’s in the offseason for the boys and preseason for the girls.”

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Those winning their age group at the inagural Jackson County Junior Golf Championship included:

8-and-under age group

Boys: Luke Baker 71. Girls: Lana Wisler (girls) 73.

9-11 age group

Boys: Noah Surface 79. Girls: Liza Stuckwisch 105.

12-15 age group

Boys: Zach Storey 97. Girls: Madeline Wisler 92.

16-18 age group

Boys: Hunter Browning 115. Girls: none.