By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
BELDEN – Hayden Buckley had no problems in what was, for him, new territory at the Pros of Tomorrow Tournament.
Competing in the 16-18 division for the first time, Buckley picked up where he left off Tuesday and maintained his six-stroke lead to win the 26th edition of the event at Tupelo Country Club.
Buckley shot a 69 Wednesday after recording a 67 the previous day to finish the two round, 36-hole tournament at 8-under-par 136. He won the 14-15 division the previous two years.
“I figured it’d be a lot harder competition and I knew that I’d have to shoot a lot better to win,” said Buckley. “But I actually played way better than I had the past two years. I just finally figured out my game.”
What Buckley figured out and tweaked was his putting, which he credited as being the turning point of his play.
“I’ve been working on my putting a lot. That’s been my problem all summer,” he said. “Really, if you hit the ball on the green and you can’t make putts it’s worthless. But I made putts all day.”
The only exception to that was on No. 18, when with the tournament championship well in hand, he missed a birdie attempt and settled for par to complete the round.
“I just thought ‘Man, two putt it,’” Buckley said. “Just making pars on the backside was all I was looking for.”
Another key to Buckley’s success was capitalizing on the four par-five holes of the course. The rising junior at Tupelo High birdied each of them in round two to help maintain his lead.
Buckley’s Golden Wave teammate, Austin Rose, finished second with a two-day total of 73-69-142. Vardaman’s Hunter Harmon used a 3-under 69 final round to move up to third at 143.
If the Pros of Tomorrow Tournament is any indication, the duo of Buckley and Rose could prove formidable as Tupelo goes for its sixth straight state golf championship next spring.
“He’s our one-man and I’m two now, but we’ll be fighting for it,” Buckley said, then smiled. “Hopefully we can have a few people step up, but we still have to do our job out there.”
William Furr, a student at Jackson Academy, shot a 71 Wednesday to break his round one tie with Haynes Horsley and win the 14-15 division.