The waiting list alone speaks volumes about the popularity of the Press Thornton Future Masters golf tournament.
“As of today, we still have over 200 on a waiting list hoping to get a phone call to get in,” tournament director Kevin Klein said during a press conference on Thursday. “They’ll drive in that morning if they need to.”
The 70th version of the prestigious junior golf tournament begins on Sunday, June 23, at the Dothan Country Club with play in the 11-12 and 13-14 age divisions. The 10-under age group joins in the following day and the three young divisions will conclude their tournament on June 25.
The 15-18 age division players going after the overall championship will begin their three-day tournament on Thursday, June 27.
“This year’s field of 464 players was selected from over 900 applications,” Klein said.
A year ago, Dothan standouts Hal Dove and Thomas Ponder battled it out on the final day in front of a huge fan base, with Dove earning the victory after two playoff holes. Ponder won the tournament the year before.
Both will return for their final year of eligibility in the Future Masters and will be considered among the favorites entering the tournament. Dove, who helped Houston Academy to a Class 3A state title this spring and was also the individual state champ, is an Auburn University signee. Ponder, who won the Class 4A state individual title in May and helped Providence Christian to a second place finish, is a University of Alabama signee.
“Who can forget last year’s tournament?” Klein said. “What a show those guys put on with Thomas Ponder birdieing the 54 th hole to force a playoff. Hal did win the playoff. It was an incredible show they put on for everybody.
“They are going to have a hard act to follow this year. I’ve watched these guys play all year against each other and it’s been back-and-forth all year between the both of them.”
While Ponder and Dove will be the headliners locally going into the tournament, Klein said there are others from the area fully capable of winning the coveted crown.
“What really amazes me, though, is they’re (Dove and Ponder) not the only people from Dothan that can win this tournament,” Klein said. “It just goes to show you the quality of depth we have in this city itself.”
Others who played for either Houston Academy or Providence Christian signed up to compete in the 15-18 age division include Emmett Lee, William Lee, Jake McDonald, Matthew Streitman, Dax Weed and Jase Walker. Another strong local contender is Brantley Scott, who played for Rehobeth High School.
There will be 27 states represented in the tournament and Klein believes there are many from Alabama who have a legitimate shot at the championship.
“I’m the coach of Houston Academy so I’ve been traveling with the golf team everywhere,” Klein said. “When I was in Louisiana if we have two or three Division I signees in a year in high school, it was a good year. In Alabama, we had over 20 this year. So this tells you the quality of players we have in the area.”
There are 13 international players entered. In the 11-12 division is Luis Cortes (Puerto Rico), Samuel Duran (Panama), Matvey Golovanor (Russia), Thaddy Huainigg (Austria), Alex Long (Canada) and Jaime Yzaga (Peru). In the 13-14 division is Lorenzo Gomez (Colombia), Frank Kennedy (England), Beni Long (Canada) and Mortiz Spoek (Austria). In the 15-18 division is Kenny Leseur (Bermuda), Teagan Miller (South Africa) and Hunter Thomson (Canada).
“It’s going to be a shootout this year,” Klein said. “Three of our champions (from last year) are returning and our new superintendent Steven Smith has made it his main goal since he arrived in May to make our greens the fastest and firmest the field has seen here in years.
“I’m hoping those players will go home saying, ‘Wow, those greens were memorable.’”