SAUCIER, MS (WLOX) - The junior golfers not only had to contend with the challenging Grand Bear golf course, they also had to deal with hot steamy humid conditions with a heat index of 98 degrees.
As the sun broke through cloudy skies, Jack Gnam of Ridgeland turned up the heat. He was three over after the first nine holes and closed out the final 9 holes with three birdies and an eagle and barely missed a birdie attempt on 18. He fired a 2-under 70 on the day and was 1-under for the qualifier.
First-round co-leaders Brice Wilkinson of Madison and Cecil Wegener of Ridgeland were neck-and-neck. Both fired a 3-under 69 on Monday and both were in position to win the overall qualifier.
Wegener needed a birdie to tie Wilkinson on the final hole. He missed and closed out his final round with an even-par 72...3 under for the tournament .
Wilkinson saved par and claimed first-place with a 1-under 71, 4-under for the qualifier. He and Wegener punched their ticket to the National USGA Junior Amateur Championship next month.
Wilkinson said, "Feeling pretty good. The game is good. I mean not much to say. I mean I played good, executed good shots and excited to be going."
"It's good, "said Wegener. " I don't care if I won today or not. Second place, getting into the Junior Amateur was just my goal for this. So, I accomplished it. I'm excited to go play."
Both young men played on state championship teams in 2016. Wilkinson was a member of Madison Central High School. They captured the Class 6A-State title.
Wegener played for Jackson Prep and they went on to win the private school golf championship.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College head coach Tommy Snell organized this event and expects Wilkinson and Wegener to represent this region well.
Snell said, "They can really play. So they're going to Tennessee at The Honors Course in Oolltewah, Tennessee just above Chattanooga. I saw two players battling the whole day. Compared it to a PGA Tour event."