Columbia golfers Leah Bowring and D.J. Chung said they will have the hometown advantage at the Missouri Big I Youth Championship.
The Missouri Big I is today and Tuesday at A.L. Gustin Golf Course. Tee-time is 8 a.m.
The Big I will decide who travels to the national Independent Insurance Agent Junior Golf Classic on July 25-29 in Ardmore, Okla.
The course at A.L. Gustin could decide who moves on to the national tournament. Experience on the course might bring a slight edge, and Bowring and Chung said it will affect their play at the tournament.
“There are a couple of holes that it’s good to know the breaks on,” Chung said. “I think that plays into my advantage.”
Said Bowring, “Gustin is my personal favorite golf course in Columbia. I feel the most comfortable there. It’s my home course.”
Qualifying tournaments determined the invitations for the Missouri Big I. The top three girls and boys from two age divisions at the Columbia competition June 30 garnered spots at the Big I.
Bowring advanced by finishing second with an 87 in the 16-18 division, and Chung won the boys title in the division with a 71. More qualified in a 14-15 division.
In the fall, Bowring, from Rock Bridge, and Chung, from Hickman, will be seniors.
Skip Grossnickele, state chairman of the Missouri Big I, said about 30 golfers will play in the Missouri Big I, which, unlike previous competitions, will not have age divisions. One girl will receive a bid to the national tournament, and three boys will qualify.
Last year, Bowring, 17, did not qualify for the Big I, but vowed to advance this year.
“I didn’t medal, but I said, ‘Next year I’m getting one,’” Bowring said.
Bowring will be competing against eight other girls to enter the IIAGC.
Bowring began playing golf as a freshman and joined the Rock Bridge team as a sophomore, and she will be its No. 2 player in the fall.
Chung, 17, started playing golf with his dad when he was 8. At 14, he began competing in the Big I. He most recently qualified for the national tournament two years ago. In last year’s Big I, Chung tied for third with a Hickman teammate, Chris Johnson, but lost in a one-hole playoff.
Johnson will be returning to the Big I for another chance at the IIAGC. He said the competition is strong this year.
“Top-three is good in any tournament, but winning is always the objective,” Johnson said. “But with the competition coming here, top-three would still be good.”
Chung said keeping his composure is a key to his success.
“It’s about taking one shot at a time and just staying in the present,” Chung said.
Bowring’s teammates, Anna Coil and Leslie Fischer, also advanced to the Missouri Big I.
Competing against friends is not new for either golfer, and Bowring said the competition will be normal.
“That’s just the way golf has always been with me,” Bowring said. “No matter who I am up against.”
“We all play summer golf and we are used to it,” Chung said. “Even when we’re on the team we want to beat each other.”