SEBRING - The Sertoma Junior Golf Tour wrapped up its 20th season in grand fashion on Saturday night, holding an awards banquet to honor the tour's best golfers. Pulling double duty as organizer and emcee, Tour Director Andy Kesling presided over a trophy ceremony at the Island View Lakefront Restaurant at Sun 'n Lake Golf Club, handing out a bevy of hardware to more than a dozen youngsters.
"This is something I always look forward to," Kesling said. "It's great to see all these new faces come up here as they start to get older and improve their golf game."
"And if anyone thinks this is easy - that golf is an easy sport - I encourage them to get out here and walk 18 holes in the middle of summer."
The Tour Championship was the final event of the season. It concluded just before the start of the banquet, after two days of play spread over Friday and Saturday. While the usual event division winners were recognized, the big awards of the night went to the points leaders of each age group.
On the girls side, Sarah Liles captured the 14 to 18 age group with 336 points. Liles was the only golfer in her division to shoot under 90 during the tour championship and did it despite a leg injury.
"When I went to the doctor to get it bandaged, I was told not to play on it," Liles said. "But I knew I had to; nothing was going to stop me."
Liles was followed by Lindsey Moffet, who finished second with 291 points, and Meredith McKenna, who came in third with 283 points.
Ashley Engle was the overall winner for the girls 11-13 division, finishing with 380 points. Hannah Revell and Alyssa Jordan tied for second with 324.
Meanwhile, on the boys side, Cole Berger took home first place in the 17-18 age group with 351.5 points. Will Bennett was second with 306 while Jonah Brown was third with 279.5.
In the 15-16 division, Ben Tubbs cruised to first place with 359 points. Andrew Wally was second with 327 while Sam Rogers was third with 317.
Like it had been all season, the 13-14 age group was a family affair. Seth Hamilton edged out his brother, Scott, to capture the division with 344 points to Scott's 324. Julian Crozier rounded out the group with 305 points.
Beckham Donovan won the 11-12 division with 375 points. Will Redding finished second with 320 and Jackson Griffin was third with 310.
There was another tight finish in the 9-10 division. Billy Carol and Zach Doorlag had been battling all season, but Carol emerged on top with 363 points to Doorlag's 351. Clay Jacobs finished third with 302.
The only co-ed division was the boys and girls 6-8 age group. Parker Griffin was the winner with 291 points, edging Jack DuPriest by just three points, who finished with 288. Brody Hall placed third with 237.
DuPriest, who tied a course record earlier this year when he shot a 26 at Highlands Ridge North, improved his game by 16 strokes this season and was an honorable mention for Most Improved Player.
"It really means a lot to get this trophy," DuPriest said. "I had a really great year - probably my best year ever. I had a big improvement."
Other individual awards recognizing a player's intangibles were handed out as well.
The award for Most Improved went to Wally and Jordan, while the trophy for Best Sportsmanship went to Leighton Jahna and Chloe Nelson.
"This is probably my favorite award," Kesling said of the sportsmanship trophy. "Because it doesn't matter if you're shooting 10 under par or plus 15 out there, if you don't know how to play the game with manners and be respectful, then you'll never make it."
Arguably the most prestigious award of the night went to Tubbs, who took home Player of the Year.
"Ben's got a great future in front of him," Kesling said. "He knows how to play the game the right way and I hope to see him improve even more as he matures."
Kesling also presented special awards to the seniors leaving the tour, giving each of them a $500 scholarship to a college of their choosing. And in turn, the seniors honored Kesling with a bevy of gift cards to local restaurants.
But there was still one last group to thank before the banquet ended: the parents.
"I just want to give a special thank you to the parents," Kesling said. "Without them, supporting and being active in their kids' lives, hauling them back and forth between events, we really couldn't have this. They've done a lot, and I'm really grateful."