Experience is important, but it is not always crucial.
Rock Bridge golfers Thomas Schuenemeyer and Mark Kollias enter the Coca-Cola Junior Classic today with different backgrounds. Schuenemeyer, 16, is participating in his fourth Classic. It will be the first time Kollias, 15, will play in the tournament.
“I think some of the other kids have had a lot more experience and that will help them,” Kollias said. “But there are kids like me who don’t, and I think we can come out and surprise them.”
The L.A. Nickell golf course will host the opening day of the Classic.
The tournament begins today with 8 a.m. tee-times. The two-day tournament will continue Wednesday at A.L. Gustin golf course.
The Classic consists of 44 Columbia golfers competing in age divisions. No one older than 17 can play and there is no age minimum. The youngest division is boys’ 10 and under.
Golfers who are 13 and older will play 36-holes in two days, and the younger players will play half that. The top-three golfers in each division will win medals, and the lowest score from all divisions receives a trophy.
Schuenemeyer has placed in the top three in his division of the Classic twice, placing second last year.
Schuenemeyer said he won’t dwell on his past performances.
“I do not want to jinx myself,” Schuenemeyer said. “I just try to play in the moment and see what I shoot.”
Kollias said he is ready for the Classic. He began playing golf four years ago.
“I started watching it on TV,” Kollias said. “My parents are really into it, so I decided to play and started loving it.”
Schuenemeyer was 6 when he received his first set of clubs.
“My grandpa got me a pair of clubs for Christmas,” Schuenemeyer said.
Schuenemeyer’s expectations are high, but they are not focused solely on winning.
“I’ll be playing with some friends (Clay Minchew and A.J. Perry) who will be joining the (Rock Bridge) team this year,” Schuenemeyer said. “I’m looking to have fun.”
Kollias said he wants to enjoy the day and play well. In order for him to do that, he must not let his fears take over.
“I’m trying to stay calm,” Kollias said. “I want to treat it like a regular day at the course. I’m not going to make it a big deal.
“The pressure will be there, and I play better under pressure.”
Kollias said practicing reduces his anxiety. He begins with an 18-hole game, but usually his day does not end there. If he is struggling with areas of his game, Kollias prolongs the practice.
“I’ve been playing five or six times a week,” Kollias said. “After that, I’ll go and work on all aspects of my game. The other night I took a bag of balls and went to practice chipping for about an hour and a half.”
Schuenemeyer’s practice schedule for the Classic has been limited because of an injury to his right leg.
“I’ve been practicing, but not that much,” Schuenemeyer said.
Schuenemeyer said playing at different courses each day does not bother him.
“It is a good way to get variety in the play,” he said.