By Hannah Turner, AJGA Communications
For the past 35 years, thousands of AJGA juniors have competed in Abilene, Texas. This week, 132 juniors will join AJGA history by competing in the Action Zone / Bob Estes Abilene Junior at Abilene Country Club – Fairway Course. Through its courses and its champions, the Action Zone / Bob Estes Abilene Junior encompasses a rich history.
Though names, sponsors and venues have changed, the juniors this year will face the same Fairway Course where Scott Verplank claimed his victory at the inaugural Abilene event in 1981 and again in 1982. Five years after Verplank claimed back-to-back titles, Phil Mickelson was named champion at Fairway Oaks Country Club.
Since 1981, the tournament has alternated between two courses: Abilene Country Club and Fairway Oaks Country Club. In 2006, Abilene Country Club bought Fairway Oaks Country Club, which united the two venues. Fairway Oaks Country Club is now the Abilene Country Club – Fairway Course.
Modern legends like Verplank and Mickelson passed through Fairway Oaks Country Club as junior golfers, but other legends passed through as professionals. Fairway Oaks Country Club (now the Fairway Course) hosted the Southwest Golf Classic from 1981 until 1988. Winners include Curtis Strange (1984), Hal Sutton (1985) and Mark Calcavecchia (1986).
And greatness does not stop there. Along with college coaches, this year’s juniors will encounter additional noteworthy spectators. Bob Estes has watched the event each year since he became a sponsor in 2006. Charles Coody, 1971 Masters Champion and co-designer of the Fairway Course, will also be present to support his two grandsons, Pierceson and Parker Coody, as they compete this week.
“We’ve hosted great golfers in Abilene over the years, and I think it’s because of the way the community embraces professional and junior events. It’s our obligation to help future golfers grow and be all they can be,” said Nanci Liles, executive director of the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In the past 35 years, legendary players have left their mark on Abilene Country Club and its AJGA event, and this year’s juniors are only days away from becoming part of the story.