By Cam Huffman
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
Before Tuesday, 17-year-old Ike Judy’s most pressure-packed golf experience might have come at the Lewisburg Elks Golf Course, competing for the top spot in the Coalfield Conference East Tournament with a few parents and a couple of teammates watching.
On Tuesday, though, Judy stood on the first tee of the Old White TPC Course with hundreds of spectators lining the fairway and PGA TOUR flags flying on the green. By his side was a five-time PGA TOUR winner, who finished eighth at the 2003 Masters.
Judy, a rising-senior at James Monroe High School, was one of four junior golfers — three from West Virginia and one from Virginia — selected to play in the Polo First Tee Scramble on Tuesday at The Greenbrier Classic.
“There were three kids in West Virginia selected to play, and they called and asked me to be one of them,” said Judy, still smiling from ear to ear while standing on the 18th hole after completing the three-hole event. “It was pretty unbelievable, honestly. I really didn’t know how to take it.”
Judy’s team, which included PGA TOUR pro Jonathan Byrd and Meagan Bored from Roanoke, Va., lost by a stroke to the team headed up by Billy Horschel that included Bailey Frederick of Fairmont and Camden Moore of Spencer — Horschel’s team birdied Nos. 11 and 18 to finish 2-under, while Byrd’s team’s only birdie came on No. 18 — but the scores really made no difference.
“It was a great experience,” said Judy, who admitted he’s more motivated than ever to continue working on his game. “It was an all-around good time. (The pros) are great guys, and I have so much respect for them doing this for The First Tee.”
Byrd explained that he finds just as much enjoyment from events like the one Tuesday at The Greenbier Classic as what the kids experience.
The 2002 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year remembers getting to caddie for his father at the Hoodie and the Blowfish Monday After the Masters when he was a young golfer. The Byrd family was paired with Scott McCarron in that event, and the young Jonathan begged to hit the three-time PGA TOUR winner’s driver.
When he did, he swung as hard as he could and watched his ball sail into the woods.
“When I play with these kids now, I know it’s the same thing,” said Byrd. “They’re nervous, and they want to try to impress the pros.
“I just want to have fun with them. It’s not about us when we come out here. They’ve gotten the great priveledge to come out here and play three holes on the tournament course, and it should be fun. We had a little competition, but there was no pressure to it. I think the kids had fun.”
Byrd said he’s played in the event on each of his trips to The Greenbrier Classic, and he’s played in a similar one at Pebble Beach a couple times, as well.
For him, it’s a chance to relax in the middle of a stressful situation.
“We just get to ham it up a little bit,” said Byrd, who played collegiately at Clemson. “Anytime you can get on the golf course and not count your score, it’s kind of nice.
“I was impressed. The pros didn’t do a great job, but (the kids) did awesome.”
Judy said he hopes to one day be one of the professionals giving the kids an experience of a lifetime, but he knows he must crawl before he can walk.
“I’m just trying to take it step-by-step,” he explained. “My next goal is to try to play college golf somewhere and then try to move on and play with these guys.”
If not, at least he can say he did once.