Good Conditions Produce Great Results

GUYMON, OK: The 44th annual Jim Hitch Memorial ends in a flurry of birdies and excitement. On day one in the Boys Division Max Shaw of Amarillo, TX showed that he was in command and prepared to go low to add the Jim Hitch Memorial to his list of accomplishments. Shaw recorded a 5 under par score of 66 with ease. So easy it could have been even lower with outstanding ball striking for 18 holes and he did not seem at all fazed by the windy conditions. Andrew Brewer from Canyon, Texas recorded an impressive 69 on the day as well as two local talents Mason LeGrange and Connor Kauffman, both of Guymon and both just completing impressive showings at the Oklahoma High School Championship finishing 4th and 11th respectively. Another outstanding round of 70 was turned in by 14 year Sion Audrain who will be a 9th grader next year in Garden City, Kansas.
On day two the wind subsided and the golf course was in outstanding condition. “I began playing golf here in 1959 and this is the best condition I remember this golf course ever being in” Steve Braley, Tournament Director, former Senior Director of the PGA of America and childhood friend of Jim Hitch.
With ideal playing conditions and virtually no wind for the final round more low scores seemed expected. Through 8 holes the leaders were in a pack and no one was stealing the show. On the 9th hole Connor Kauffman hit his second shot to the green and ended up only inches inside the out of bonds stake and left the hole with a disappointing double bogey 6 and fell behind the pack. The other leaders, Audrain, Brewer and LeGrange and Shaw made the turn comfortably and it was anyone’s tournament. After the turn Kaufmann showed poise and focus by making birdies on holes 10 and 11 to rejoin the pack. For the next few holes young Sion Audrain was hanging in there and the all the young guns remained close with no one running away from the pack. As the end of the round got closer and the pressure mounted it was Connor Kauffman that showed what it takes to win by continuing to make birdies and finished with a birdie on the final hole to for a score of 31 on the final nine and a 69 on the day. It was not easy as the rest of the leaders were on his heels. Andrew Brewer shot 70 and Max Shaw finished with a disappointing 73 while Sion Audrain bogeyed the last two holes to finish at 74.
The last 10 holes provided great excitement from the promising young men and Connor Kaufman became the 2015 champion of the 44th Jim Hitch Memorial. There was another exciting thing happen during the final round when Connor Jolly from Amarillo recorded a very rare Double Eagle, sometime referred to as an Albatross, on the par 5 sixth hole by hitting a driver and mid iron in the hole for a 3 under par score on one hole. In 2012 Mathew LeGrange from Guymon won the tournament but he and Connor Kaufmann are two of the few Guymon golfers to win the historic event in recent history.
The Girls Division of the Jim Hitch Memorial had its own intrigue this year with a past player who contended for the championship. In last year’s tournament Briana Pais from Raton, New Mexico played hard to the very end to narrowly loose to junior golf star Marisa Marquez of Amarillo. After the first round of this year’s tournament the tournament favorite, Briana Pais, held a commanding lead by shooting a solid 80 and held a 4 shot lead over Alexis Escobedo of Amarillo, TX. Close behind was Brianna MaGee from Mulvane, Kansas shooting an 85 and MaKenna Rose of Guymon with a score of 86. But the second round belonged to Alexis Escobedo. Going into the second round 4 shots back Escobedo played a solid front nine and reduced the lead to 2 shots with nine holes to go. Both girls excelled on the final nine holes but Escobedo turned in a 36 and Pais struggled in the final holes to give the young Alexis a one shot victory. Alexis Esconbedo was amazingly calm and confident especially when you consider her young age of 12 “playing up” to compete in the high school girls division. It would seem we will see many more victories from Alexis. This year’s event was clearly a big success and the winners of the Jim Hitch Memorial, both boys and girls, will have to opportunity to advance their golf ambitions with the outstanding exemptions offered to the top finishers in the Jim Hitch Memorial. The tournament enjoys an outstanding reputation in junior golf and other outstanding junior tournaments provide automatic exemptions into their national and international tournaments. Here is a list of the tournaments they will advance to as a result of their strong showing at the Jim Hitch Memorial.
North Texas PGA West Championship – Lubbock, Texas
Rocky Mountain Junior Tour, Tournament of Champions – Scottsdale, Arizona
Oklahoma Golf Association Tournament of Champions – Edmond, Oklahoma
North American Junior Amateur – Litchfield Park, Arizona
New Mexico West Texas Amateur – Las Cruses, New Mexico
Lanny Wadkins Junior Championship – Dallas, Texas
The Jim Hitch Memorial Junior Golf Championship is traditionally played on the first weekend in June and is scheduled for June 2, 3, 4, 2016.