Win or lose, Neil Pulongbarit knew the World Junior Golf Championship in San Diego was going to be the experience of a lifetime.
And while he struggled a bit in a tournament that lists David Toms, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson among its winners, the 14-year-old was loving every minute of it.
"It's really nice down here," he said after an opening-round 84 left him with too much ground to make up - 16 strokes behind first-round leaders Brandon Park of California and Tao Huang of Taiwan. "And it's exciting because there are players here from all over the world. I'm just trying to gain a lot of experience from this, learn from it, and go from there."
Pulongbarit, who's been playing since he was seven, qualified for the worlds by shooting a 76-74 at a tournament in Medicine Hat earlier this year. He missed the cut in San Diego (top 51 and ties advanced from a field of 141) but hopes to be back next year.
"I love playing and if I keep working at it I think I can keep getting better. My long-term goal would be the PGA."
GRIP IT AND RIP IT: Brodie Evans of Calgary, who had a 440-yard drive last year in local qualifying for the Re/Max World Long Driving Championship, will be among the hopefuls this Saturday at the St. Albert Driving Range. Local qualifying for the annual event in Mesquite goes Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The junior competition is on Sunday (9-5), with all kids 18 and under getting free qualifying attempts.
"I'm trying to get some of the local pros to send me some of their kids so they can give it a try as well," said local organizer Wayne Paradis, who hopes to improve on the 70 kids they had in the 14 and under category last year. "It's an area that's pretty new and we'd like to get a lot of young players involved."
ACES HIGH: From the holes in one department: Jane Wright used a pitching wedge from 95 yards to score one at Pioneer Meadows, while Dennis Murphy holed an 8-iron from 157 yards on the third hole at Coloniale. At Legends, Gary Griffiths hit a pitching wedge on the fifth hole for the second ace of his life.