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Area golfers tee off in Top Flight Tour

by Chris Vannoy

SPORTS WRITER

The West Virginia Top Flite Junior Tour officially wraps up today at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulfur Springs when action tees off at the tour's championship.

Entering its 18th year of play, the tournament has seen 320 different junior golfers ages 12 through 18 hit the links in their tournaments this summer -- almost a 30 percent increase of last year's record participation.

Tour director Larry Martin oversees the 15 regular tournaments as well as today's championship.

"When we first started the tour," Martin said, "We wanted juniors to have something to compete in. It's gotten really big over the years."

Robert C. Byrd's Adam Dyer, last year's high school Class AAA individual medalist, who currently sits in 15th place on the summer tour, won't be at today's championship.

Bridgeport's Tyler Francis, as well as RCB's Michael Jarvis, South Harrison's Jeff Messenger and Gilmer County's Anthony and Phillip Reale will be at the tournament, however, according to Martin.

For Dyer and many other golfers on the tour, the real championship may not be won until Oct. 16 when play wraps up at the West Virginia High School State Golf Championship.

"The tour really gets your game into tournament shape," Dyer said. "It gets you ready for the high school season, and that's the important part."

Dyer, who has played on the tour since he was 12, credits the summer play to a lot of the success he's had at the high school level.

"It's become a part of my summer," he said. "I mean, you can go and hit as many balls as you want, but the only way you get better is if you play in tournaments. The tour really builds up your tournament experience.

"And a lot of the guys on the tour are the same guys you'll see at the state tournament, so if you can beat them over the summer, it gives you a lot of confidence."

With high school golf practices starting on Aug. 13, and tournaments starting as early as the next day, RCB coach Rockey Zannino is just happy his players can get a few competitive swings in before the season starts.

Falling by just four strokes to Class AAA champion Cabell Midland a year ago, the Eagles are swinging for a higher goal this season.

"We want to go all the way this year," Zannino said. "And the more competition they get in, the better our chances will be. I can't go with them or anything, but when competitions come up, I let them know about it.

"The more practice, the better."

Sports writer Chris Vannoy can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at sports@exponent-telegram.com

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