All ages get chance at Missouri Big I

Wednesday, July 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:10 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kate Gallagher’s age wasn’t a disadvantage as she took on high school girls at the Big I Youth Championship tournament at A.L. Gustin Golf Course on Tuesday.

“It was fun,” Gallagher said. “I’ve played with them before. I’ve played in this tournament for three years, and I’m kind of used to it.”

Gallagher, 12, was the youngest player in the finals. Gallagher, who will be a seventh-grader in the fall, placed fifth with a two-day total of 163.

Gallagher, from Savannah, said she was putting well, but she had trouble hitting her fairway woods.

Jessica Connelly, of Des Peres, won the girls’ title with a 148, and Jeff Zimmerman of Excelsior Springs won the boys’ championship with a 132. Eight girls and 20 boys played in the tournament.

Connelly, 17, who will be a senior at St. Joseph’s Academy, said she had a horrible front nine, but she calmed down, settled into a pattern and played better on the back nine. Connelly said that she was hitting her irons well, keeping everything close, but her expectations almost got the best of her.

“In the beginning, I had high expectations for myself,” Connelly said. “Yesterday was probably the best round I have ever played, so I kind of expected to do that same thing today, and when it didn’t happen, I kind of got frustrated, but after I relaxed it kind of came back together.”

Although Connelly had high expectations, she didn’t come to Columbia expecting to win.

“I didn’t know who was going to be here,” Connelly said. “I was lucky enough to play pretty well the past two days. I didn’t think I’d be in contention to win.”

Connelly advanced to the Independence Insurance Agent Junior Classic national tournament in Ardmore, Okla. The four-round tournament begins July 26 at Dornick Hills Country Club.

Zimmerman, 17, said he didn’t make any mistakes Tuesday.

“I had a bogey-free round,” Zimmerman said. “I wasn’t putting well, but I hit some shots in there close. I just wasn’t making any mistakes, so I couldn’t shoot too bad.”

Zimmerman won the tournament two years ago and this year played the final round with Rock Bridge’s Jay Rader, last year’s champion, and Hickman’s D.J. Chung, this year’s runner-up with a 138. Zimmerman said playing with them was an advantage.

“It was nice because I knew what they were doing, and I knew what I needed to do,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said his strengths were his ability to keep his drives in the fairway and chip the ball well. Zimmerman said he couldn’t get his putts to fall, though.

Chung said this tournament is one of his favorites because he has been so close to winning it.

“This is something I have been really working towards, and something I have really wanted,” Chung said. “I have almost built my game and practice schedule around this tournament.”

Chung faced a tough putt on the 18th green. If he missed it, he would have tied for third, but Chung sank the putt to beat Justin Bardgett.

Zimmerman, Chung and Bardgett will join Connelly in the Classic.

Rader finished fourth (141). Hickman’s Drew Wier was fifth (143) and teammate Chris Johnson was eighth (148).

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