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Something New: Callaway Junior Tour Rookie League kicks off with 27 golfers

Photos by Jay W. Bennett The inaugural Callaway Junior Tour Rookie League kicked off on Saturday afternoon at Mingo Bottom Golf Club. From left, Andrew Freeland, Logan Hilkey, Cole Darnold and Brody Allman, pictured here walking down the fairway on No. 17, were the first group to tee off. Hilkey topped Darnold by one stroke to win the AAA Division title.

ELIZABETH, W.Va. — The first three divisional winners of the new Callaway Junior Tour Rookie League were crowned early Saturday evening at Mingo Bottom Golf Club.

Although mid-afternoon thunder caused a delay of less than an hour, that didn’t stop Beverly’s Khoen Courson (A), Elizabeth’s Izac Dotson (AA) and Ritchie County’s Logan Hilkey (AAA) from earning top honors.

Courson, who is going into sixth grade at Beverly-Center Elementary, finished with a 24 on her six holes.

“I was kind of nervous, excited, but I did pretty good,” admitted Courson, who bested the 35 of runner-up Austin Donohew of Evans.

Williamstown’s Olivia Buttrey and Harrisville’s Bentley Myers tied for third with respective 39s. Rounding out the A Division were Millstone’s Laney Arnold with a 45, Nitro’s Joel Smith with a 50 as well as Parkersburg’s Eli Reid and Mineral Wells’ Dylan Criss carding respective 55s.

Belpre's Geno Crooks, who will be in second grade at Parkersburg Catholic Elementary School, tees up his ball and prepares to hit his driver on hole No. 15 during Saturday's Callaway Junior Tour Rookie League event at Mingo Bottom Golf Club.

The local Dotson finished with a 46 to win his crown. Drew Marling of Glen Dale placed second with a 54. Nitro siblings Tanner and Cole Brothers placed third and fourth, respectively, with a 62 and 69. Belpre’s Geno Crooks, who just finished first grade, checked in with a 76 on his nine-hole round where the max score is 10.

Dotson started his afternoon by getting on the par 5, No. 11 in two. It was his first hole of the day, but the last one he wasn’t happy with.

“The worst part was hitting two balls in the water on 10,” he said of ending his round on the par 3.

“That was my first tournament. I was hoping to at least get in the middle.”

The triple-A division had the most competitors with 14 and Ritchie County golfers claimed three of the top four spots with Hilkey (40) topping Cole Darnold by a stroke.

Parkersburg’s Kelan Lucas was third with a 45, which bested Andrew Freeland’s 49 and Vienna fifth-place finisher Anna Earl’s 50.

“I just need to work on chipping a little bit. I struggled with that,” noted Hilkey, who will be a junior for the Rebels this fall.

“Putting was alright. I had one birdie on 16. I’ve been playing a lot, but I wanted to stay at 40 or below. That was my goal.”

Vienna’s Barrett Louden carded a 55 and finished in sixth place.

Also competing in the top division, which played from the red tees, were Ashlyn Donohew (Evans) 57, Brody Allman (Mineral Wells) 60, Ryan Weekley (Pennsboro) 62, Madilyn Buttrey (Williamstown) 67, Hunter Brothers (Nitro) 71, Anthony Herrald (Charleston) 72, Aubree Conzo (Belpre) 74 and Trista Arnold (Millstone) 75.

“It’s been something we’ve been working on for years, developing a tour to introduce kids to golf that could then lead into the ever so popular Callaway Junior Tour and I think we found it with the Rookie League,” admitted Brad Ullman, the executive director of the West Virginia Golf Association.

Ullman also gave kudos to the local courses as well as Tri-State Roofing-Sheet Metal for all they do to support youth golf.

“It was great to have 27 golfers out for its inaugural event of the year,” he added. “The rest of the schedule is going to be centered right here in Wood County.”

Billy Dotson, the general manager at Mingo Bottom, was more than glad to help out.

“I watched him (grandson Izac) play and it’s been great for the golf course,” Dotson said. “A lot of exposure for us and people have never been here before.

“We do everything we can to promote kids and get kids interested in golf. I just appreciate Brad and Chris (Slack) asking us to host the inaugural event. It seems like the kids are having fun. I’m having fun. It was a good day.”

The exact tee times for the next scheduled event on Saturday at Minibel Par 3 in Vienna should be known by Friday afternoon.

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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