Gooch keeps AJGA in state, sponsoring July 24-27 event at Gaillardia
By Ken MacLeod
Oklahoma junior golfers will have an American Junior Golf Association event in the state again for 2023 with the AJGA’s announcement of the Talor Gooch Foundation Junior Championship July 24-27 at Gaillardia Country Club in Oklahoma City. 3Birds Kids Foundation will be the presenting sponsor.
Gooch, the professional golfer from Midwest City and Oklahoma State University who now competes on the LIV Golf circuit, pledged $50,000 from he and his wife Ally’s foundation for the title sponsorship to have the event in Oklahoma. A previous event, the Gateway First Bank Tulsa Junior that was held at The Oaks Country Club and Cedar Ridge Country Club concluded its run in 2022. It is a one-year commitment for the new event with an option for more.
Nick Hughes, a Gaillardia member and former Oklahoma City University golfer, will serve as chairman of the event. Hughes has two golfing sons who are likely competitors in the event in Chase, 12, one of the state’s most talented junior golfers, as well as Rhett, a senior at Edmond Santa Fe who has signed to play at Nebraska beginning in the fall of 2023 and plans to make this his final AJGA event before his collegiate career begins. Hughes is also a longtime friend and fellow competitor of Kelsey Cline, who is executive director of the Talor Gooch Foundation, and the two have worked closely on bringing the AJGA back to Oklahoma.
Gooch, who grew up playing on the Oklahoma Junior Golf Tour and credited it and founder Morri Rose with helping him become the player he is today, has been a staunch supporter of junior golf in the state. His foundation has an ongoing sponsorship of the OJGT.
On those lines, three spots in the AJGA event will be reserved for OJGT competitors who rank highest on the points list in the three spring events, two spots for boys and one for girls. They will go to players who do not have enough AJGA qualifying “stars” or points to be otherwise eligible.
The field for the 54-hole AJGA event will consist of 78 golfers. A local qualifier will be held on July 23. The AJGA also has events that week in Fresno, Calif., Orlando, Fla., Huntsville, Ala., Columbia, Mo., Ann Arbor. Mich., and Beaumont, Calif., so it is likely most of the field will be from the central states.
Gooch plans to be personally involved as much as his schedule will allow, Cline said, including holding a players’ panel with interesting guests on Wednesday of tournament week, then also being out there as much as he can during the three days of competition Tuesday through Thursday including to present the winners with their trophies.
“It was important to him that his schedule allow him to be there,” Cline said. “That’s part of why we wound up on these dates, because there was no direct conflict with his playing schedule. He’s always been a huge supporter of junior golf and this just continues what he is already doing with the OJGT.”
“We’re excited about it and Gaillardia is excited about it,” Hughes said. “It’s going to be great to have it there.”
Spurred by the destructive winter of 2021, Gaillardia finished converting its fairways to the Oklahoma State developed Tahoma 31 in 2022 and the results have been drawing raves from members and golfers who have visited.