Talent at the tee
Elliott to compete in Optimist International

CONYERS - At 13 years old, Edwards Middle School student Hunter Elliott is already building quite a resume on the golf course.

On July 3, the rising eighth-grader qualified for the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships - one of the largest and best-known junior golf tournaments in the world - after winning the qualifying tournament at Bridge Mill Athletic Club in Canton.

Elliott said he's been playing golf a couple of times a week since he was 10, but qualifying for this tournament has really shed new light on what the sport of golf is all about.

"I'm real excited to get to go to Florida and play with kids from all over the world," he said. "I just love the sport and I love competing."

Elliott said the best part of his game is short game - something he hopes to showcase at the tournament.

"I don't hit the ball very far, but I get up and down the course very well," he said.

Elliott has also set some lofty goals for the tournament.

"I'd like to make the top 15," he said. "I've been practicing a lot and trying to get my swing down."

Each year, more than 650 golfers participate in the tournament.

Players from 40 states, six Canadian provinces and 30 other nations will compete Thursday through next Tuesday (boys and girls 10-11, 12-13, 14-15) and July 29-Aug. 3 (boys and girls 16-18) in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

The event is held at PGA National, home of the PGA Tour's Honda Classic and former host to more than 19 major PGA championship events including the 1987 PGA Championship, the 1983 Ryder Cup matches and close to two decades of the PGA senior events.

The field is drawn from more than 60 district qualifying tournaments involving more than 5,000 young golfers and an international at-large application process.

Former champions of the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships include Beth Bauer, Jonathan Byrd, Bubba Dickerson, Brittany Lincicome, Jeff Overton, Stacy Prammanasudh and Jennifer Rosales. A number of other well-known professional golfers have participated in Optimist-sponsored championships such as Amy Alcott, John Daly, Ernie Els, Justin Leonard, Nancy Lopez, Davis Love III, Michelle McGann, Phil Mickelson, Lorena Ochoa, Nick Price, David Toms and Tiger Woods.

The Optimist International Junior Golf Championships is nationally ranked by the Junior Golf Scoreboard and the Golfweek/Titleist Performance Index.

Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@rockdalecitizen.com.