By Gene Phelps
GOLDEN – Isaiah Jackson had a six-birdie opening round, but his final putt was the difference maker.
Jackson’s putt at the Hattiesburg Country Club in a two-day qualifying tournament – a 15-footer – saved par and helped punch his ticket to the 67th United States Junior Amateur Golf Championships.
“That was a pretty important par,” said Jackson, a Golden native, who will be a junior this fall at Red Bay (Ala.) High School. “That 15-footer kept me at 4-under … the best round I’ve ever had.”
Jackson followed his 68 with a second-day 76 for 144. His score and finish – second place – earned him a berth in the July 21-26 national tournament in the Woodlands, Texas.
“This probably won’t hit me until I go there,” Jackson said in a telephone interview. “I’ve played in the junior state am before and I missed the cut in this year’s state am (at Dancing Rabbit).”
Accolades coming in
Jackson, 16, is coming off a solid spring for Red Bay. He finished third overall for medalist in Alabama’s Class 1-2A state tournament in Prattville, Ala.
He finished his season with a 36.1 nine-hole stroke average and was named to the Florence (Ala.) Times Daily All-Area Golf Team.
“That was my best nine-hole average,” he said. “I had a really good high school season. I shot a 32 in one match. I’ve improved a lot.
“I finished 25th or something last year at the state tournament. This year I gave myself a chance.”
Jackson’s low round in the Hattiesburg qualifier also included two frustrating bogeys on the pine tree-lined course.
“Really, I putted and chipped really well that day,” he said. “I tried to keep it down the middle and stay out of trouble.
“I hit 14 or 15 greens (in regulation). “I only had 26 putts that round. I’ve been working a lot on my putting; it’s been a weak point.”
That work earned him a shot to play for a national championship.