By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BELDEN – The state’s top club professionals, amateurs and junior golfers are headed to the Tupelo Country Club in late July for the annual Mississippi PGA Trustmark Invitational.
The 54-hole stroke-play tournament – scheduled for July 27-29 – was last played at the TCC in 2002.
The 2011 champion, Canton Country Club pro Olly Thomson, is expected to defend his title. He held off a late birdie charge by two amateurs – Tupelo’s Fletcher Johnson and Greenville’s Billy Brozovich – and eventually won on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff over Johnson in a rain-shortened, 36-hole event at the Country Club of Jackson.
“It’s nice to beat those flat bellies,” Thomson said, referring to his younger competition. “Those young guys were throwing a bunch of birdies.”
Johnson, Mississippi’s 2010 state amateur champion, just completed his freshman season at Mississippi. Brozovich was a senior this past spring on the Ole Miss golf team.
Thomson is a native of Leeds, England, who moved to Mississippi from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Olly’s always one of our (the club pros) better opportunities to win,” TCC pro Jim Rose said. “He can play.”
Rose takes a lot of pride in seeing a club pro, who usually does more teaching than playing, win the event.
“It doesn’t happen very often, so we brag when we do,” he said, then smiled. “There are so many good amateurs these days. We’ve got 10 to 12 club pros who can really play.
“Club pros don’t play as much, so it’s a challenge.”
Rose says that despite the lack of rain, the TCC course is in great shape, especially its fast Champion Bermuda greens.
“We love to show off the golf course,” Rose said. “Our greens, as usual, are the defense of our course.”