The 25th annual Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior takes place this week at Bellefonte Country Club in Ashland, Ky. One of the longest-running events in AJGA history, “The Bluegrass,” as it is affectionately known, has been hosted at Bellefonte Country Club since 1984. It features a rich history filled with great champions, committee members, and friends.
Past champions have gone on to have impressive careers, many of them in the world of professional golf. Notable Boys Division champions include Steve Flesch, 1985 champion and current PGA TOUR participant. Flesch has seen 14 top-10 finishes and grossed over $15 million since he joined the TOUR in 2004. Also, Ben Curtis the 1994 champion, has gone on to compete in 108 PGA TOUR events. Curtis took home the trophy at the 2003 British Open.
The Girls Division features an equally decorated list of past victors. Leigh Ann Hardin took home the win four years in a row from 1997-2000, making her the only female in the tournament’s history to do so. Hardin has since joined the LPGA Tour after being named the most decorated male or female in Indiana State high school history for her golf accomplishments through the AJGA and her school team. Other impressive winners include Vicki Goetze with back-to-back wins in 1988 and 1989. Goetze went on to be named the Rolex Junior Player of the Year from 1988-90. She is a current LPGA member as well after completing a successful AJGA junior career.
A recap of this tournament’s rich history would not be complete without mentioning the local community at the heart of the event. In the past 25 years, there have only been four sets of tournament chairmen for the event. Tom Cooksey was the first, serving as tournament chairman for 16 years. Tom Rupert co-chaired with him for eight years, and once he stepped aside, wife Pat Cooksey took over as co-chair. Cooksey now lends his considerable golf knowledge as the Senior Rules Official for the event. After Cooksey, Mary Jo and Bill Thompson took the reigns, followed by Tammy and Kevin Wall. Jeff and Barbara Conley are now in their first year as tournament chairmen for the event. As a result, the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior has been a consistent, high-quality event each and every year.
In addition to the tournament committee, the Natural Resource Partners Bluegrass Junior relies on a strong force of dedicated volunteers that generously donate a week of their lives to the event. Many volunteers have been with the tournament since its inception, spotting on holes, delivering lunches and filling coolers, always with a smile and a friendly hello. Without these volunteers, the event would not be possible.
This year’s tournament field contains notable juniors with promising careers, hoping to follow the paths of the champions before them. Although only two players can win, the entire field will no doubt walk away from this unforgettable week with fond memories. Here’s to another 25 great years!