By Mason Nome, AJGA Member
Doug Ghim never misses a shot.
At least that was what I was thinking when I watched him play in the last group on the final day of the 2014 CB&I / Simplify Boys Championship at Carlton Woods with Andy Zhang and Carl Yuan.
I was in the gallery that day, and watched him play flawless golf, making consecutive birdies on Nos. 2-4 and 6-8 to get to six-under-par through eight holes. Watching Ghim was like watching a robot play golf, and he played nearly perfect golf the rest of the round, not making a single bogey in the entire tournament until the 54th and final hole. He would break Jordan Spieth’s tournament record by shooting 12-under-par for three rounds.
At the time I had just turned 13 and was entering my second year of playing AJGA events. Although I knew Invitationals were different than the Junior All-Stars I had played up to that point, the huge difference was becoming very clear. I was hoping to pick up a few PBE Stars in AJGA events, and these guys were breaking Jordan Spieth’s records, and bombing 300 yard drives! I weighed only about 80 pounds at the time. Ghim dominated that day and while I hoped to be able to play in some Invitationals someday before my AJGA days were finished, that level seemed a long, long ways away.
Two more AJGA seasons passed by, where I was lucky to have had some success. My game developed as time went on, and I grew bigger and stronger. I had verbally committed in the fall of 2014 to follow Doug Ghim and Jordan Spieth and play golf at The University of Texas in 2019.
This year, I was fortunate to be in the field for the 2016 CB&I / Simplify Boys Championship at Carlton Woods. I had played in three Junior All-Star Invitationals already and had fun, but this tournament would be my first “real” Invitational. I love Carlton Woods and was happy to be able to sleep in my own bed for once during a tournament since the course is only about 45 minutes from our house in Houston.
I arrived for the Thursday unofficial practice round and was paired with my friend Noah Goodwin, a member of The First Tee of Greater Houston and a Carlton Woods member named Jerry Toenges. Amazingly, Mr. Toenges made a hole-in-one on Hole No. 14 during our round. I viewed witnessing the hole-in-one as a positive sign of good things to come during the tournament.
I started quickly in Saturday’s first round, making birdies on two of my first three holes and four birdies on the front nine. I ended up making five birdies on the day, and shot a 3-under-par 69 after hitting 15 greens. After the first round, I was in fourth place, only one shot behind my friends Pierceson Coody and Cooper Dossey and also Andy Zhang who I had followed while watching Doug Ghim shoot that record score only two years prior.
I was fairly successfully on the front nine of the second round and found myself tied for the lead with Andy Zhang at the halfway point of the tournament after three birdies on the front nine. It was a nice feeling being tied with Andy at the halfway point after watching him as a spectator in the last group only two years earlier! Like many others, I had some trouble with the wind on the back nine and ended up shooting a 1-over-par 73, which put me in seventh place going into the final round.
For the final round, my group was announced on the first tee by World Golf Hall of Fame member and golfing legend, Carol Mann. Again, I started quickly, making birdies on three of my first six holes and found myself in the top 5 going into the back nine. Unfortunately, I hit a couple of loose shots in the high winds, made three-straight bogeys, and ended up finishing the tournament in ninth place, by shooting even par for the tournament. Regardless, I was very fortunate and happy to have ended up with a Top 10 in my first Invitational.
The tournament was amazing in every way, and it is easy to see why it has won so many awards from the AJGA. CB&I and Simplify, Mr. and Mrs. Dernick, the Tournament Committee and Mr. Alexander and his team at Carlton Woods treated all the players and their families so well. Mr. Freyman and the AJGA staff made the event extremely special as well. The fact that the event honors our soldiers and wounded warriors made it even better. Without them, I could not play the game I love, and I am very thankful for their sacrifice.
Hopefully I will see you again next year at Carlton Woods!