Based on his scores, Flowery Branch rising senior Kyle Erickson said he doesn’t expect his golf career to extend to the college level — not that he wouldn’t like to play there if given the chance.
But that doesn’t stop him from cobbling together the money needed to attend a couple of the summer golf tournaments his high school coach, Shane Millwood, described as “like AAU basketball for golf.”
“I enjoy that a lot,” said Erickson, who added that he pays for the tournaments out of his own pocket to help out his parents. “I do it as often as I can even though it’s not as often as I’d liked to.”
Erickson is one of a number of Flowery Branch golfers — along with Gainesville golfers Spencer Ralston and Meg Callahan — who will be participating in the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s Royal Lakes Junior Open on Saturday and Sunday at Royal Lakes Golf and Country Club in Flowery Branch.
It’s not their home course — that would be Reunion Golf Course in Braselton, where Erickson works parking golf carts and cleaning up the range — but it’s close by and familiar to the Falcons golfers.
“We all just know the course because it’s so close to us,” he said. “It’s a convenient golf course.”
Royal Lakes has held a number of tournaments, including Atlanta Junior Golf Association tournaments and a stop on the old Hooters Tour. But this weekend’s event will be the first Hurricane Tour event the club has hosted.
Erickson, who paid $175 to enter this weekend’s event, his second tournament of the summer, last played the course early in the high school season for the Hall County Championships. He said its not a particularly hard course, although hole No. 11 is not for the faint of heart.
“You’ve got water on the tee shot, water on the second shot, water basically everywhere,” he said.
What’s tougher for many of the high school golfers, he added, is the simple fact of having to be on your game for two days.
“Two days is a lot tougher, in golf its hard to stay consistent, you’ve got to go out there and do it again,” Erickson said. “A lot of times it determines the best golfers if you do a two-day tournament instead of one day.”
He added that there will be a number of very talented golfers in the field who fully plan on playing at the collegiate level. So the notion that he, along with teammates Sean McKnight and Jacob Barfield, may have an advantage due to their knowledge of the course, probably won’t be as helpful as he’d like it to be, Erickson said.
“It may not give me as much of an advantage as I’d like to, but definitely an advantage,” he added.
For many local golfers though, the summer is filled with tournaments every weekend, whether in the Hurricane Tour or the Atlanta Junior Golf Association or the number of prestigious independent tournaments.
Gainesville boys coach Bryson Worley said every player in his program plays summer tournaments.
“It’s gotten much more prevalent in the 10 years I’ve been here,” he said. “When I started, just one or two players did the summer tours.”
Worley added that, at the higher levels, the summer tours and individual events are the prime means for college coaches to evaluate and recruit golfers. It’s due in large part to the fact that tournaments have to be at least two days to be included in a players’ profile on the National Junior Golf scoreboard, one of the key tools for recruiters, and that college coaches have the time to watch prospects in the summer.
Part of Worley’s job in the summer includes coordinating and paying attention to where his golfers are playing. The key for the coach of the defending Class AAA state champs is just that they play.
“You can’t go wrong by playing in an event. College coaches are looking for good fields and good scores,” he said. “My philosophy: I want them to get on a tour where they’re successful.”
Events on the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, based out of Jacksonville, Fla., and including stops in the Carolinas, Florida and Georgia, are divided into four age divisions: Boys 11-14 and 15-18, and Girls 11-14 and 15-18.
It costs $175 for Erickson to be a tour member, so the Falcons rising senior has certainly put his money where his mouth is in regards to enjoying the game, and the competition that comes with playing in one of the summer tournaments, even if his main goal isn’t to prepare for the next level like some of the other participants.
“I really just do it because I enjoy it,” he said.