More incentives, bigger turnout for Coke Golf Tour

PONTOTOC – Young local golfers have something bigger to play for this summer.

The Coca-Cola Junior Golf Tour’s 2024 season kicked off Monday at Pontotoc Country Club, and it featured a robust field of 137 players across eight age divisions. That’s more than double the average tournament turnout two years ago, which was when Drew Belt and Kyle Ellis took over the tour.

How have they done it?

“We run it like a real tour,” said Belt, whose day job is Director of Instructions at Tupelo Country Club.

Under Belt and Ellis, the Coke Tour now has a sizable financial incentive for players. Division winners of each tournament this summer will receive a $20 gift card to Pro Golf Discount in Tupelo. And for those who play exceptionally well, there’s a chance to earn exemptions for Southeastern Junior Golf Tour events.

Belt said the Coke Tour will cover entry fees for those tournaments to the tune of nearly $10,000.

“The kids see that, and they know they’re playing for something more than just for fun and bragging rights,” he said. “They’re playing for an opportunity to get to the next level and actually put themselves in front of college coaches, which is what we’re really trying to do.”

Kye Dozier won the 16-18 boys division, shooting a 2-over 74. That tied him with Amory High School teammate Ace Rock, but Dozier won the scorecard playoff.

There were 32 golfers in the 16-18 division, and seven of them finished within three shots of Dozier. He’s a big fan of the tour’s added incentives.

“I feel like the more competition, it’s way more fun,” he said. “It brings nerves and all that, and it’s a really good environment to come out and play.”

Parker Avant, who won the girls 13-18 title with a 7-over 79, agreed.

“It makes it a lot more fun, especially when you have a lot of fun girls that you know well, and you get to play. And not just win it, but you’ve got other rewards to look forward to, so it’s fun,” said Avant, who attends Kirk Academy in Grenada.

Other winners

Brody Robbins cruised to the 14-15 boys title with a 2-over 74. Cameron Knight dominated in 12-13 boys, shooting an even-par 72 to win by 10 strokes. Travis Carter (2-over) won 10-11 boys, and Julie Beard (24-over) claimed 10-12 girls.

Bo Rea (6-over) won the Body Armor division, while Wyatt Williamson (3-over) won a scorecard playoff against Ella Knight in the Powerade division.