Playing Your First AJGA tournament: Information, Advice and Observations

An interview with Connor Macmillan (@cbeargolf24) after playing his first AJGA Tournament: TaylorMade / adidas Golf Boys Junior All-Star at Chateau Elan Golf Course. 

How did you enjoy your first AJGA event?

It was fun and a good experience. Along with playing in general, I visited the TaylorMade truck. It was interesting to talk to the reps there that were on their way to the Masters at Augusta. The competitors got really cool adidas and TaylorMade golf shoes, shirt, hats, glove and TP5 golf balls. 

You're an experienced tournament player, was this tournament different very much from others?

The distance was quite a bit longer than what I have been playing. It was a bigger tournament and I was younger than most other players in the field.  All the players are top competitors nationally as you have to qualify to play AJGA. The size of the field was 132 players which is very large for a junior tournament, as large as the US Kids teen world championship field.

Mentally I feel that it meant  a lot more than other tournaments.  It was a lot more serious than other tournaments. Bags were checked before the round. We all had to carry sand with us to replace divots. They were very strict with pace of play. 

Actually our group got a red card saying we had to make up "1 minute in the next 3 holes". I thought that would not be too difficult but I was 1 over until I got the red card on hole 15. I rushed a bit and that affected a few of my shots, put me out of my rhythm and I had it in my head. It's a very formal card with all these times and numbers.

We made up the time in the end but the damage was done and I dropped 3 shots on the next 2 holes. I was on track to making the cut before the red card. This was on the second day. My first day was not too great - I started off okay but the last few holes I got too aggressive and it didn't pay off.

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What advice do you have for players playing in their first AJGA tournament?

Get to the tournament well in advance to be able to warm up well. Go to the players meeting and have your parents go the the parent's meeting. Speak to the sponsors. Give yourself lots of time and read all the information. On the course, play your normal game, don't get nervous and don't rush anything. 

Dad's observations

The last few holes on both days made the difference between a top 20 finish and not making the cut. Juniors have to learn to keep focused all the way through the round. Eating properly during the round and keeping hydrated helps. A good routine and taking time to really visualize shots also helps. In "no caddie tournaments" such as AJGA, Hurricanes etc., parents are not allowed to provide advice so juniors need to start learning how to manage their own energy levels and focus.

Sports Performance Coach's thoughts on keeping focus and keeping momentum through a round

Meighan Julbert, MS is a Mental Skills Consultant with The Mindside and works with Connor.

Meighan believes that often the problem is not necessarily a 'losing focus' but more a shift of focus to one that is based on needing to force birdies and be more aggressive in shot choice. Focus needs to remain in the present moment with the hole he is playing and go for the birdie if the hole feels right, not if he feels like he has to make one. Rushed decision-making and routine leads to forgetting where misses could be. Sticking with a calm routine and pace allows him to go for a birdie if the hole feels right.

Last thoughts

There's a lot of golf to be played. I'm looking forward to the year and hopefully playing a few more AJGA events this season. Meighan and I have been talking about a plan and keeping relaxed with good focus throughout the round. 

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