Pellot, Kyes take Vaughn Taylor Championship junior golf titles
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Top-notch junior golf was back on display in the Augusta-area over the weekend.
After rainy skies infiltrated the opening-round of the 2020 Vaughn Taylor Championship, Sunday's final round was a hot one. This was the second year for the tournament at Mount Vintage Golf Club and with difficulties surrounding the virus, Taylor credited the American Junior Golf Association for helping to make it happen.
"With no volunteers and just kind of a different setup with social distancing, luckily the AJGA has been doing this for a few weeks now," the Augusta native said. "They've got a good idea how to run it and they've been a great help."
Izzy Pellot, a member of the Class of 2022 from Altamonte Springs, Fla., shot 75-74 to take the girls' title. She trailed Emma Chen by one shot to start the day, but survived a bogey on No. 17 to take the title. Pellot said the thought of trailing didn't get to her.
"I actually had my best shots in the rain, which is kind of funny," she said. "There wasn't really that much of a difference to me, I just stayed inside my mindset and I just didn't let go of anything. I didn't let it get to me, because if I did, then I probably wouldn't have played my best."
Pellot finished one shot ahead of Chen and Sophia Bae (Norwood, N.J.) for the win. She entered the tournament with three-straight AJGA top-10 finishes. She added that while the summer was challenging with the circumstances involved, it helped that her local course remained open.
Chase Kyes, from Birmingham, Ala., took the boys' crown. With the win, the 14-year-old Kyes became the youngest golfer to take the Vaughn Taylor Championship. He shot 71-69 to finish two shots ahead of Nicholas Gross (Downington, Penn.).
Being the youngest in the field can bring with it some anxiety, but, coming off a win in the AJGA Junior All-Star in Opelika, Ala. in July, Kyes said he was better prepared mentally for this event.
"It was kind of intimidating at the beginning, because I'm playing against a bunch of seniors," he said. "The two guys in my group, one was going to Clemson and the other is going to California, so they're really good. Everybody out here is good, so you can't think of that. You've just got to play your own game."
Mount Vintage is a physically-demanding course with more than a few elevation changes. Both Pellot and Kyes acknowledged that walking the course on back-to-back days began to take a toll.
There were five local players across both fields. Mia Messa (Augusta) finished ninth in the girls' field while Caroline Heath (North Augusta) took 22nd. On the boys' side, Augusta natives Brady Bentley and Ballou Phillips finished tied for 35th and 38th, respectively. Baylor Greer (Johnston, S.C.) rounded out the local boys at 50th.
After the final scorecard was submitted, one thing was certain for Taylor.
"Golf's in a good place. The game's got a bright future and I could see that this week. I saw a lot of really good looking, polished swings out here," he said. "It's good to see at such a young age. I felt like I was a late bloomer, and my generation kind of was. The way these kids play the game at this age is really cool to see."