Eight years ago the idea of creating a local opportunity for young golfers, who might not be ready for state level competitions, came to a pair of junior golfers dads.
“Kids could play in the SCJGA tournaments, but they would have to travel around the state and spend a lot of money,” said Todd McAlister, one of the founders of the GSA Junior Tour. “We wanted to do something so kids could get tournament experience close to home, make sure it was affordable and have some fun,” he said.
McAllister and Todd Carter both had sons playing on the Easley High School golf team. The idea they developed has grown each year to become the most successful non-affiliated junior golf program in the state.
“Our first tournament was at Pickens and we had about 40 golfers,” recalled Carter. “We didn’t know how many to expect and we were pleasantly surprised,” he said.
While the South Carolina Junior Golf Association does a wonderful job of providing opportunities for juniors, the demand far exceeds the number of tournaments and playing spots offered by the state organization.
‘We wanted to create an opportunity for kids who were just getting started. Maybe they were trying to make a high school team or wanted to get experience to get ready to play in state events,” said Carter.
When the GSA Tour began in 2014 there were only a handful of events and all were around Easley.
Now the Tour includes 12 events and counting covering the Upstate and the Midlands with events at Blythewood and Orangeburg.
“We get golfers from all over the state and some from North Carolina. We’ve been asked by parents to consider playing tournaments around Rock Hill in the future,” said McAlister.
The most recent GSA Tour stop at Three Pines in Woodruff drew over 80 players, doubling the number of the first event.
“Last year with the pandemic we had over 100 players at some tournaments. We thought our numbers might fall off a little this year, but they haven’t so far,” said Carter.
When the Tour started most of the players were beginners or had little experience. Now it is not unusual to have state ranked juniors and future college players in events.
“We had five players who will play college golf next year and our girls’ player of the year for last year, Raquel Fowler is going to Southern Wesleyan to play her college golf,” noted McAlister.
The GSA Tour operates like many other organizations conducting golf tournaments. Juniors pay a membership fee of $75 for the year and then an entry fee for each event they play.
When McAlister and Carter began the Tour they expected to operate it for as long as their sons played junior golf.
Both Matt Carter and Drake McAlister have not only finished their junior careers, and played college golf, but the two dads are still creating opportunities for other young golfers.
“We keep doing it because we got to know the kids and the parents. They appreciate the opportunity and it is fun to be around them,” said Carter.
“I don’t know how long we will keep doing this. Maybe our boys will take over at some point, but right now its still fun and something that is helping to grow the game,” concluded McAlister.
The Tour stopped at Three Pines for the Winter Classic.
The boys 16 and over championship was won by future Presbyterian College golfer Trey Howard from Woodruff.
Howard shot a 4-under par 68 to win the age group title by a shot over future USC Upstate golfer Barrett Josey and two shots over his Woodruff High School teammate and future Wofford golfer Daniel Brasington and Davis Hill from Boiling Springs.
Gage Howard from Woodruff finished one shot in front of Dylan Park from Easley for the boys 13-15 year old title. Andrew Wiley from Greenwood was the boys 10-12 year old winner with Patrick Cutler from Spartanburg and Hunter Devriendt from Greenwood sharing the 8 to 10 year old title.
The girls 16 and over title was won by Alexis Hodge from Lexington. LillyReed Black from Chapin was the girls 13-15 year old champion while A.C. Peake from Pauline winning the 10-12 year old group title.
GSA Tour information is available at http://www.gsajuniorgolftour.com.