MURFREESBORO – Fresh off a United States Golf Association (USGA) national championship last fall, Manchester native Ashley Gilliam has carried that momentum over into her 2018 summer season.
The rising senior at Tullahoma High School has qualified for both the upcoming U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Amateur. But this week her mind is focused solely on another goal she has – to win three straight Tennessee Girls’ Junior titles.
Gilliam captured the first of those last year, and if Tuesday’s opening round of the 55th renewal of the championship is any indication, she is in prime condition for a repeat.
Gilliam fired a bogey-free round of 5-under, 67 at Old Fort Golf Club to find herself four strokes clear of second place McKinley Cunningham (Clarksville) heading into Wednesday’s second round.
The Tennessee Girls’ Junior Championship consists of three rounds of 18-hole stroke play, with the final round set for Thursday.
“I putted really good today,” Gilliam said. “I made birdies on the par fives. I just took advantage of the holes I needed to take advantage of and didn’t make too many mistakes on the other ones.”
Gilliam was part of the Tennessee squad that won the USGA Women’s State Team Championship last September at The Club at Las Campanas in Santa Fe, N.M.
Gilliam has committed to play collegiately at Mississippi State once her high school career is over. She will be joining a familiar face in Starkville – Aubree Jones, a Covington native who attended Brighton High School.
Jones won the Tennessee Girls’ Junior title in both 2014 and 2015, which is the incentive Gilliam has to win three straight. Gilliam’s mother, Jennifer (Haley), also won the crown in 1989.
“It runs in the family,” Gilliam said about the love of playing in state events. “My mom has played in them ever since she was little.”
“One of my friends at Mississippi State, Aubree Jones, has won (the Tennessee Girls’ Junior) twice in a row and I definitely want to beat her record.”
Cunningham has also qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur. Both her and Gilliam will be leaving for California following the conclusion of this week’s tournament. The U.S. Girls’ Junior begins Monday at Poppy Hills Golf Course at Pebble Beach, Ca.
Three golfers are tied at two-over to round out the top five following the opening round of the Tennessee Girls’ Junior – Angelina Chan (Franklin), Hannah Nall (Cleveland) and Kara Carter (Kingsport).
TENNESSEE GIRLS’ JUNIOR AMATEUR
OLD FORT GOLF CLUB
1 Ashley Gilliam -5
2 McKinley Cunningham -1
3 Angelina Chan +2
3 Hannah Nall +2
3 Kara Carter +2
6 Isabella van der Biest +4
6 Lily Bloodworth +4
6 Lindsey Hollis +4
9 Shelly Jang +5
10 Cameron Waltman +6
10 Tzunami Polito +6
12 Rheagan Hall +7
12 Vilda Westh Blanc +7
14 Alayna Perryman +8
14 Ellie Bloodworth +8
14 Gracie Johns +8
14 Kallie Robertson +8
14 Kendall Maynard +8
14 Sadie Pan +8
20 Ainsley Simms +9
For complete scoring: https://www.golfgenius.com/pages/1330048
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