Four youth golfers wrap up winter tour in Florida


Picture this: The sun is beaming over the rolling greens of Augusta National. The air is calm. It’s 70 degrees. You pull out your driver, tee up your shot on No. 1, and send it straight as an arrow down the fairway, setting up an easy approach. By all accounts, it’s a golfer’s dream.

Now, imagine the exact opposite. Pouring rain and gusty winds make already-frigid temps even colder. Most players wouldn’t even bother driving to the course.

But four local boys (the same four The Forest-Blade ran a story on just a few weeks ago) aren’t most players. Richard Braddy, Cooper Riner, Layton Terwilliger, and Karson Kettles proved just that with their latest outing.

They spent the entire fall traveling to different courses around the state to play in the Georgia Under Armor Junior Tour. By December, all of them had earned enough points on the tour to qualify for the equivalent of The Masters for their age, the 2024 Winter National Championship.

They and the rest of the country’s top golfers gathered February 14 through February 19 at the pristine Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Florida for the tournament finale.

Karson competed against 130 others in the 12-14 age group while Richard, Cooper, Layton, and 66 others vied for the 15-18 championship.

The younger of those two divisions played at The Links Course, which spans 5,363 yards and demands a par of 71 at the end of 18 holes.

Meanwhile, the older division took on a longer course at Baytowne Golf Club. Despite being 711 yards further (for a total of 6,074 total yards) across 18 holes, it only afforded players 1 more stroke of forgiveness for a par of 72.

The field of almost 200 were given the opportunity to get in a few practice rounds starting that Thursday. By the time competitive play started on Saturday, conditions were rough. The Florida panhandle on which the two courses are located was still experiencing wintry temperatures, combined with nonstop rain and wind.

Nonetheless, the four golfers from Swainsboro held their own.

Karson shot an 87, paring half of the holes, during the opening round. On Sunday, he only added 2 more shots to his scorecard and birdied two holes for a total of 89 on the day, to finish tied for 70th by the tournament’s end.

Richard had an arguably career-best showing. He started 39th and jumped 32 spots on the leaderboard. During the opening round, he pared 14 holes and even squeezed in two birdies on two different par-fours for a total of 70. On Sunday, however, he struggled a bit, paring eight fewer holes. Still, he had a birdie and jotted down a final score of 84 on the day to finish seventh overall.

Cooper was hot on his trail. He shot a tight 78 on Saturday, complete with six pars, three birdies on holes 1, eight, and 10, and an eagle on the par-5 #5. He trimmed off a stroke on Saturday for a tally of 77, made up of 10 pars and three birdies. That two-day performance solidified him in a three-way tie for 10th place overall.

Rounding out the local competitors’ time in Destin, Layton shot an 88 on Saturday and a 90 on Sunday. With nine pars and two birdies between the 36 holes of play, he finished tied for 57th.

Since winter nationals wrapped up, Cooper, Richard, and Layton have all gone on to suit up for David Emanuel Academy’s golf program. The school fielded its first golf team since 2019 this year, and the Eagles came back in statement fashion, winning Region 6-AA over the weekend. Look for a full report in next week’s edition of The Blade.