Buckley embraces golf challenge

DJR_07232013By GENE PHELPS
Daily Journal

Hayden Buckley finished third in last year’s Mississippi Junior Golf Association State Tournament.

The Tupelo High School golfer believes he could have won the 54-hole event at the Country Club of Jackson if not for a so-so first round.

“I shot a 78, then a 68 the second day. You add an even par with what I shot the final day and I win by two or three (strokes),” said Buckley, who has the scorecard posted on his bedroom wall as a daily reminder of what could have been.

“You can’t shoot a 78 against guys like Grant Motter and Braden Thornberry. It takes three good rounds to win.”

Buckley, who won the recent Pros of Tomorrow tournament at the Tupelo Country Club, tees off at 1 p.m. today in the first round of this year’s MJGA State Tournament at Old Waverly in West Point.

Thornberry, who plays for DeSoto Central High School, is the defending age 16-18 division champion. He recorded a 6-under-par last year at the Country Club of Jackson.

Oak Grove’s Motter returns after a second-place finish, 3-under, to Thornberry. Buckley was tied at even par with Brookhaven’s Jacob Ross.

“You have to play three consistent rounds,” Buckley said. “You want to avoid trouble and avoid a big number.”

He played a practice round at Old Waverly on Monday and said the recent rain might slow down the quick greens.

“The greens are a little soft, but they’re definitely quick,” he said. “It’s not a long course, but it requires good golf shots and a hot putter.

“I think it’s an amazing course. I’m glad we’re playing here.”

Buckley will be joined in the field by his THS teammates – Blake Harris, Miles Johnson, Daniel Purnell, Kirk Reeder and Austin Rose.

There will also be champions crowned in boys 14-15, boys 12-13, boys 10-11, boys 9-under, girls 16-18, girls 13-15, girls 10-12 and girls 9-under.

The boys 16-18, 14-15, 12-13, girls 16-18 and girls 13-15 will play 54 holes.

The younger age groups will play 27 holes.

gene.phelps@journalinc.com