The Lancaster County Junior Golf Tour is set to kick off Thursday morning, and this year’s tour features even more youth than the name implies.
The LCJGT’s website lists just 22 rising high school seniors on the tour, down from 25 last year and 36 in 2017. Ages 9-19 are eligible to play.
So when golfers tee off at 7 a.m. at Manheim Township’s Overlook Golf Course, Tournament Director Jon Chronister is excited to see the younger talent on display.
“Some of our top players are rising juniors,” Chronister said. “I think that’s a little unusual in that I know we have a couple seniors, but a lot of better players in addition to them are rising juniors and sophomores who are ready to make that next step as well.”
Among the best boys division players expected to compete on the LCJGT this summer are Graham Calhoun (Manheim Township), Connor Strine (Manheim Township), Hamilton McNaughton (Manheim Township) and Jonathan Glick (Lancaster Mennonite).
On the girls side of things, Chronister said Amanda Gerrish (Hershey) looks like the favorite in her third year in the gold division, which generally houses the best talent among both girls and boys.
Gerrish is one of a few intriguing players from outside Lancaster County. The boys division features Central Dauphin’s Garrett Engle, the top-ranked boy in the state of Pennsylvania.
Chronister said he isn’t sure how often Engle will play with the LCJGT this summer, but he expects him to participate in some of the nine events listed on the tour’s schedule after he won the LCJGT’s championship event as a 13-year-old two years ago.
Players from outside Lancaster County like Engle and Gerrish are two products of a recent change in philosophy on the part of LCJGT leadership.
Chronister said the LCJGT spent several years mandating that players from outside Lancaster County to register at a later date than players from Lancaster County, giving locals the first shot to reserve a place on the tour.
Recently, though, that restriction was removed, and both groups of players can now register at the same date.
“Participation has been down slightly within out county,” Chronister said. “But what we did was we opened it up to players from everywhere, and we continue to get more players from Berks, Dauphin and Adams County.”
It’s an appealing tour for players from outside of the area, Chronister said, because of how well it’s run and the quality of the tournaments, as well as the tour’s ability to prepare players for high school play in the fall.
The challenge begins with Overlook on Thursday, which Chronister called a “good test” for the young golfers with its firm, fast greens and tree-lined holes. The tour traditionally starts its season there.
Further down the line, Chronister highlighted the G. Crudden Memorial event on June 19, which bestows a trophy laden with Lancaster County golf history to the winner.
Also highly anticipated is the Fillings Major Championship on June 27, which awards 1.5 times the number of points to the winner as a normal event would in the tour’s standings.
With the tour replacing a number of key members who are no longer eligible, Chronister said he anticipates a number of tightly contested events.
“I think there is a good young crop of players who played against them a kind of know what it looks like to go out and play good golf,” Chronister said. “And I think that crop of players coming up behind them are going to really grow into that.”