Bend golfer hoping to seize opportunity

Alyssa Kerry in AJGA Sunriver Junior Open golf tournament

By Zack Hall / The Bulletin / @cogolfguy

Published Aug 26, 2014 at 12:01AM

AJGA Sunriver Junior Open

Where: Sunriver Resort, Meadows course

Tee Times: 8 a.m. today, 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, 8 a.m. Thursday

Also: Sunriver Junior All-Star for golfers age 12-15

Admission: Free for spectators

For more information: www.ajga.org

Alyssa Kerry has not often had the opportunity to play against top-flight regional golf competition.

But the 17-year-old from Bend will get that chance when she tees off in the American Junior Golf Association’s Sunriver Junior Open today at Sunriver Resort’s Meadows course.

The 54-hole tournament — which has a 51-golfer boys division and a 21-player girls division — features some of the most promising young golf talent in the West and beyond.

College coaches tend to pay attention to such fields, meaning this has the potential to be a life-altering tournament for Kerry, who dreams of playing college golf.

“It’s a really big opportunity,” says Kerry, a rising senior at Summit High School who is taking advantage of a local player exemption into the Sunriver Junior Open field. “I am super excited to play in it.”

Kerry, a Bend native, is not the lone Central Oregon golfer in the field. Her high school teammate, 17-year-old Madison Odiorne, is also scheduled to play. Isaac Buerger, of Redmond, and Cole Chrisman, of Bend, will tee off in the Sunriver Junior All-Star tournament, which is for golfers age 12 to 15.

Most of the golfers Kerry will be competing against this week have spent the summer — or to be more accurate, the last several summers — traveling from town to town searching for the best golf competition.

Nearly half of the girls field, including Odiorne, played in the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. And golfers such as Odiorne, who last week committed to play at Washington State, and Marianne Li, a California commit from Bellevue, Washington, already have are committed to play at Pac-12 schools.

Instead, Kerry has spent the summer working in the outside services department at Sunriver Resort, using any downtime to work on her golf game while playing in Central Oregon Junior Golf Association tournaments. So she is as interested as any to find out how her game stacks up against an elite field.

“I think that I will be able to compete with them in certain areas, but I know that there’s parts of my game that I need to work on,” Kerry says. “I think that’s the difference between them being able to go to those big-time schools. And that’s what I have been spending the last few months working on. So we’ll have to see whether or not the work is starting to pay off.”

Kerry’s golf game has come on of late.

In her junior year at Summit she proved herself a reliable player on the Storm’s Class 5A state championship team. And her steady improvement — she trimmed her scoring average by eight strokes from her sophomore to her junior year, she says — culminated in a second-place finish in the 2014 Class 5A state tournament, just three strokes behind winner Odiorne.

That performance, in part, helped open the eyes of college recruiters, Kerry says.

“I didn’t think that was going to happen, that’s for sure,” says Kerry of her state tournament performance. “But I was able to put two decent rounds together, although I made a few mistakes and could’ve played better. That always happens. But that was definitely a highlight for this year.”

Odiorne will have an experience altogether different from her teammate’s this week.

Odiorne finished in fourth place in last year’s Sunriver Junior Open, and with her college choice now behind her, “I can finally stop worrying about schools and play my game,” she says. “And it hasn’t been like that for a while. … It’s like going back to eighth grade.”

After years of playing elite-level junior golf while being courted by colleges, Odiorne is also pulling for Kerry.

“I am hoping she plays well,” Odiorne says. “It is (a big opportunity).”

Kerry — who picked up golf at age 11 to compete with her older sister Rebecca (who just finished her senior golf season at St. Francis College in New York) — admits that she might be a bit nervous when she tees off today at 9:40 a.m.

After the nerves subside, however, she hopes to take it all in stride.

“I just think that it’s going to be a great opportunity to compete in a higher tournament, which will help me in my future if I play well.” Kerry says. “I would love to show that, yeah, I can compete in these more difficult tournaments against these players who are super-good.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, zhall@bendbulletin.com.