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Bluegrass Junior golf tourney begins in Bellefonte

Jun. 12, 2011 @ 11:00 PM

ASHLAND -- Greg Sanfilippo is back at Bellefonte Country Club.

Sanfilippo got his first look at Bellefonte in 2005 as an intern with the American Junior Golf Association. The AJGA crew put in the long hours that week to make sure the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior golf tournament came off glitch free.

Now, he's getting reacquainted with the venue as tournament director for the 2011 NRP Bluegrass Junior scheduled Wednesday through Friday on the par-70 Bellefonte layout.

"It's neat to come back. I know what it's like," Sanfilippo said. "The hospitality, dedication, time and support the people put in is amazing. That's why the AJGA is still here."

This is the 28th Bluegrass Junior, making it one of the longest running stops on the AJGA circuit. The AJGA named the 2009 Bluegrass Junior as its Tournament of the Year. The Bluegrass Junior is one of five events on the AJGA schedule this week. Two are invitationals.

There are 10 AJGA staffers making their debut this week and Sanfilippo said the hospitality he experienced in 2005 will be present again.

"They'll get blown away by the hospitality," he said.

Jeff Conley, the NRP tournament chairman, is the person in charge of making that happen.

"The whole club's behind it," he said. "It's what can we do to help?"

The first order of business is the Monday qualifier. That event fills out the starting field -- 108 boys and 36 girls age 12 to 18. The tournament features players from 22 states (44 from Kentucky) and seven foreign countries.

"There's more international players now," Sanfilippo said.

Junior-Am fund-raisers are Monday (13-15 teams) and Tuesday (32 teams).

On Wednesday and Thursday, the field is split and players go off Nos. 1 and 10 in the morning and afternoon. There will be a 50 percent cut in each division after round two. Friday's action will start at 7 a.m. with the leaders going off at 10:30. The awards ceremony is set for 3:30 p.m.

The Boys Division will have a new champion as 2010 winner Joshua Martin is competing in the AJGA's Footjoy Invitational this week in Greensboro, N.C. For the girls, defending champion Emma Talley is back.

Talley bypassed the Rolex Girls Junior Championship to play here for the fourth time. She is from Princeton, Ky. and plays for Caldwell High School. She's been medalist in the Kentucky High School Girls State Championship two of the past three years. She won the AGA Junior at Quad Cities on Friday for her seventh career win. The junior's made a verbal commitment to Alabama.

Players from Ashland in the field are Nicholas Blankenship, Jeffrey Meade, Andrew Rothenstine and Patrick Taft. Jacob Porter is from Russell. Contestants from West Virginia include Thadd Obecny II from Wheeling, Cameron Ford and Christian Hitt from Bridgeport and Eli Lambe from Moundsville.

Also competing his Scott Barnhart from Lexington. His father, Mitch, is the athletic director at the University of Kentucky.