The bad news for the Barbasol Junior Championship in 2020 is the fact it wasn’t able to get lifted off the ground for its inaugural edition, as had been planned. The coronavirus kept that from happening along with many other things in the world of sports. But the good news is that the 2020 season on the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour produced the starting contingent of Kentuckians who will represent the Commonwealth in the tournament for the first time, thus meaning they’ll have the opportunity to compete for a spot in a PGA Tour event. And that starting contingent is, well, quite good. Those players are Hayden Adams, Jay Nimmo and Warren Thomis. Each player has their own unique background and future in the game, but they share the characteristic of being really darn good at golf.
Who is he? Hayden Adams is a product of Lexington and a sophomore at Sayre School. In 2015 and 2016, he first started to truly show the things he’s capable of on the golf course. He piled up seven wins on the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour in those two seasons and his scores became incrementally better with each passing year. Starting in 2017, he began playing high-level junior competition on the national scale and continues to bulk up his competitive experiences on avenues such as the AJGA. His best finish there in 2020 was at the Harold Varner III Foundation Junior All-Star where he finished in 7th place.
How did he get in? By winning the Kentucky Boys Junior Amateur in unbelievable fashion. The final round of that tournament took place at Boone’s Trace National Golf Club where Adams entered the day sharing the lead with Luke Coyle. The pair had a four-shot edge on their nearest counterparts beginning the day, but that margin shrunk for each player throughout the round until other contenders crept into the mix which resulted in four different players holding either the outright lead or a share of the lead during the last four holes of regulation. When the dust settled, Adams had finished the final round tied with Rylan Wotherspoon. The two embarked on a sudden-death playoff where Adams found himself just over the green while Wotherspoon had a birdie putt from within ten feet of the hole. Needing to make something happen, Adams turned the tables by chipping in for birdie which became the winning moment after Wotherspoon missed his putt that would have extended the playoff. Now, Adams will compete in the inaugural Barbasol Junior Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club just a short drive from where he lives, hoping to be right back at Keene Trace later on for the Barbasol Championship as a competitor.
Who is he? Jay Nimmo has put forth a compelling argument in the last several years for those trying to identify who Kentucky’s next great golfer might be. Nimmo hails from Benton, a small town in western Kentucky. Currently in his senior year at Marshall County High School, Nimmo has enjoyed a phenomenal high school golf career in which he won the KHSAA State Individual Championship in both 2020 and 2019. The hard work he’s put in has been rewarded with the opportunity to play college golf with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. His collegiate career in Starkville will begin in the fall of 2021. Before then, he will have the opportunity to win some of Kentucky’s premier junior tournaments one last time, which will include this one.
How did he get in? By winning the award of Golf House Kentucky Junior Player of the Year in 2020. This award is determined via points that are accumulated in all forms of competition, including marquee events on the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour, the top high school events in the state, premier state competitions like the Kentucky Open and Kentucky Amateur, along with regional and national competition. Winning the KHSAA State Championship along with the Lou Perry Tour Championship on the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour were the two key tournaments that bumped him to the top of the list, but some eye-catching finishes of 2nd place in the AJGA’s Justin Thomas Junior Championship plus a T30 finish in the Kentucky Amateur went a long way in securing that prize, plus this exemption for Nimmo.
Who is he? Warren Thomis is from Richmond, which is a little more than half an hour away from the Barbasol Junior’s home site of Nicholasville. He is a freshman at Madison Central High School and an emerging superstar in the scene of Kentucky Junior Golf. This past high school season, Thomis finished T24 in the individual portion of the KHSAA State Championship and earned a very impressive T4 finish in the KGCA All-State Championship. In his one AJGA start in 2020, he got a T27 finish in the TaylorMade TP5 Junior All-Star… and that was with an 80 in the first round before shooting 70 and 73 in the second and third rounds. All this to say he is well above what the average 14 year old golfer is doing.
How did he get in? By putting on a clinic in the Kentucky Boys Junior PGA Championship. The event was held at Gibson Bay Golf Course, a facility the Richmond resident is very familiar with. Thomis shot 69 (-3) in the first round and 68 (-4) in the final round to walk out with a seven-stroke victory. In any ordinary year, that win would have gotten him a spot in the Junior PGA Championship held nationally, but the coronavirus pandemic deprived Thomis of that opportunity. Alas, there is no reason to think Thomis won’t qualify for that tournament in any of the next few years. Already being part of the Barbasol Junior field as a freshman means Thomis will enter the tournament as one of the youngest players in the field. By getting these experiences early in his career while continuing to grow and gain strength, the sky is the limit for Thomis.
Adams, Nimmo and Thomis won’t be the only Kentuckians who tee it up next summer though. There will be other opportunities for players to get in the field in 2021, most notably the Barbasol Junior Qualifier at Boone’s Trace National Golf Club on June 9-10. This will be open to players regardless of their residence and the low six players will secure an exemption for the Barbasol Junior Championship three weeks later. Also, the winner of the Kentucky Boys Junior PGA Championship, if not already exempt, will claim a spot in the tournament field. That event will take place at Gibson Bay Golf Course in early June prior to the qualifier.
Other possible exemption opportunities will be determined during the winter by the tournament committee, but regardless of how many Kentuckians qualify for the inaugural Barbasol Junior, we know three of the Commonwealth’s best will be there with Hayden, Jay and Warren. It will be a tremendous stage for them to showcase their talent and play in front of family and friends with one of the most unique prizes in junior golf on the line. With a little luck coupled with the skill they already possess, they may find themselves playing against the PGA Tour in the Barbasol Championship next July.