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Thomas Layton was unforgettable in his play this week in the 40th Larry Pittman Memorial/Wilson County Junior Golf Championship.
Because he amazed inspired and delighted in the Boys 8-Under division at Wilson Country Club on Monday, Wedgewood Public Golf Course on Tuesday and Willow Springs Country Club on Wednesday.
Keep in mind that Thomas is only 4 years old, and was not only this year’s youngest entrant but one of the youngest in the event’s 40-year history.
The little guy can flat-out play, holding his own with competitors twice his age.
“He’s doing exceptional!” Scott Layton, the lad’s proud father exclaimed.
Thomas completed his three days of tournament play on the par-3, No. 5 layout at Willow Springs on Wednesday.
After sinking a putt for a bogey-4, Thomas reacted with excitement, finishing with an emphatic fist pump and strutting off the green
DUNN, BOYKIN RECEIVE HONORS
Michael Dunn and Vickie Boykin were likely the most surprised and appreciative individuals among a turnout of some 250 for Wednesday night’s Wilson County Junior Golf Association banquet at Willow Springs.
Dunn, the proprietor of Pup’s Restaurant, and Boykin, the wife of WCJGA adult leader Jim Boykin Jr., were honored with the association’s 2018 Larry Pittman Memorial distinctions.
Barbara Pittman, the widow of Larry Pittman, the founder of the Wilson County Junior Golf Championship and its governing body, is primarily responsible for the yearly Pittman award selections.
“They are always very deserving,” Jim Boykin declared.
The honor recognizes individuals for support, services, promotion and contributions to the WCJGA endeavor.
“Michael and Pup’s have been so good to us the last several years,” Jim Boykin noted. “We are very proud of their support of the kids in this community. Michael really cares about the kids.”
Dunn and Pup’s have been active in staging fund-raisers to benefit junior golf.
An accomplished golfer who played collegiately and professionally, Dunn embraced the county championship in its early days.
Jim Boykin quipped that Vickie was saluted because she’s his wife and has to put up with him.
He noted Vickie doesn’t hesitate to point out junior golf items that can be found all over the house. She assists in tournament preparation and is always in attendance for the banquet.
“She is always very supportive and has put up with me all these years,” Jim Boykin expressed.
“They were both surprised,” Jim Boykin added.
The WCJGA celebrated its 40th year in 2018 and Jim Boykin has been active in it for more than three decades.
Jay Pittman, who starred at Hunt High, Campbell University and Atlantic Christian (now Barton) College before becoming a professional, offered a different approach as the featured banquet speaker.
Pittman, the son of Larry Pittman and a participant in the inaugural county championship, mixed personal experiences, his pride in the tournament’s longevity and the pluses of playing in the tournament and becoming involved in the organization with a bit history. Pittman listed all the former and current professionals at Wilson Country Club, Happy Valley Country Club, Willow Springs Country Club and Wedgewood Public Golf Course.
Pittman called upon six former WCJGA presidents — Gene Williams, Mike Kennedy, Cameron Suddreth, Courtney Jones Price, Kayla Ricks and Kellie Boykin — for a panel discussion to impress upon young listeners why they should be involved in the junior golf endeavor and how it helped them grow personally.
Fifteen former presidents attended the celebration. Jay Pittman was among that number. Williams, Pittman, Kennedy and Richie Fulghum were the first four, respectively.
Completing the list: Candler Matthews, Amy Otteson, Ken Maddox, Chris McKeel, Brandon Narron, Will Pope and current president Ryan Richardson.
Jim Boykin described the scene as “pretty cool.”
While the presentation of the Larry Pittman awards was considered the highlight, numerous other special moments filled the lengthy evening.
Barbara Pittman announced an anonymous donor, earlier in the week, provided funds to begin a scholarship to honor the memory of Pat Fagala.
The association added an amount to the anonymous donation and scholarships were presented to Kellie Boykin, who is attending North Carolina State University; and Candler Matthews, a student at East Carolina University.
Both recipients are individuals who were diligently involved in the WCJGA as not only players but as offIcers, including president.
Kellie Boykin capped her Hunt High golf career by being proclaimed 3-A Big East Conference Female Player of the Year her senior season, while Matthews was situated near the top of the Fike High lineup for four years, and helped the Golden Demons to conference championships three of those four years.
Barbara Pittman eulogized Fagala, who passed away in early March, with a moving tribute. She was also praised by Richardson in behalf of the WCJGA.
Fagala, an avid and accomplished golfer, was truly passionate in her support and promotion of junior golf. She delighted in working with the younger age groups in the county tournament and, on an annual basis, always hung on a story about one particular episode with a tot.
“I was blessed to be her friend,” Barbara Pittman said.
In reflection, Jim Boykin, who was cited for his many years of service and invited to join the panel discussion, suggested the event survived 40 years because of the appeal of accommodating all skill levels for girls and boys ages 18 and under.
“I think it’s great that we are beginner-friendly,” he emphasized.
Also unique, Boykin added, is allowing caddies to accompany youngsters during their rounds each of the three days.
Boykin mentioned caddies as a valuable teaching instrument.
Not overlooked were the untiring efforts of juniors Austin Ricks and Matthews in assisting with necessary daily task.
TRUSTED HIS CADDY
Speaking of caddies, Boys Ages 11-12 champion Ethan Boyette didn’t hesitate to note his caddy was of tremendous benefit in his playing 27 holes or three nine-hole rounds in just 4-over-par.
Caddying for the repeat 11-12 winner was Bryson Boyette, Ethan”s brother. Bryson Boyette not only concluded a title-filled WCJGA stint with the Boys medalist and Ages 17-18 titles in 2017, but won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A individual championship the same year as a Fike senior and was tabbed Freshman of the Year in the NCAA Division II Conferene Carolinas with Barton College in 2017-18.
En route to going 2-for-2 in 11-12 championships, Ethan Boyette established a 27-hole record of 111 strokes for his age group. The previous year, he set the nine-hole record in the division with a 34.
In both instances, Ethan Boyette eclipsed standards of 112 and 35 owned by Clay Willis.
Ethan Boyette gushed about the superlatives of his talented brother, who tied the 18-hole Happy Valley Country Club record with a 11-under-par 61 earlier this summer.
Finally, Ethan commented that, as his caddy, “I trust him.”
ALLEGOODS FOLLOW FATHER
In their Wilson County Junior Golf Championship debuts, a pair of Allegood brothers seized age-group championships.
Luke Allegood, age 7, prevailed in Ages 8-Under and Samuel Allegood, age 10, triumphed in 9-10.
Considering their family background, the brothers’ feats are not all that unexpected.
After all, their father, Claud Allegood, was competing in golf at even earlier age. At the age of 5, he played in and finished third in the International Pee-Wee Golf Tournament in Orlando, Florida.
The siblings are simply elated to now be residing in Wilson County and, therefore, eligible to participate in the Larry Pittman Memorial.
Now to look ahead to 2019 and the 41st version.
Barbara Pittman contended the week’s events inspired and re-energized her and others to continue on.
“We need to get a few more kids involved,” Jim Boykin declared. “Right now, the parents are doing a little more than we expected.
“But if we only have 30 players, we are going to put on a good tournament for them.”