By Amanda Herrington (@AJGAAmanda), AJGA Communications
The junior golf world suffered a true loss on Friday, Aug. 8, as James Larry Conlee, founder of the top-ranked junior golf tournament the Bubba Conlee National Junior Golf Tournament, passed away. Conlee created the event in memory of his son James Larry “Bubba” Conlee, who died tragically during the peak of his junior golf career.
Since 1980, Conlee has dedicated his life to serving junior golf and hosting the nation’s top talent to the “Bubba,” as the event was affectionately known. He opened his home to players and their families and welcomed college coaches in attendance at the heavily-recruited event.
In 2014, AJGA juniors Jayna Choi of Collierville, Tennessee, and Alexander DeRosa of Atlanta, joined the prestigious list of past champions, including 2013 winners Rachel Dai of Milton, Georgia, and Braden Thornberry of Olive Branch, Mississippi. Winning the event was special for each junior, who remembered fondly the impact Conlee made.
“This great tournament and the victory are now the highlight of my golf career. Beyond winning I was given the opportunity to get to know Mr. Larry Conlee and his beloved son, Bubba Conlee, who was a good Christian, fine student, dear friend and excellent golfer. This tournament is intended to perpetuate Bubba's aspirations and those of other fine young golfers to achieve the best that the great game of golf has to offer. Mr. Larry Conlee was a very kind, nice, happy, caring and encouraging person. He always had a smile on his face and very naturally encouraged each one of the players. After the first and second rounds, he came to me and said ‘Hey young lady, you did an awesome job, never give up, enjoy your game, and have a fun!’ I can never forget his smiling face and his warm hand tapping me on my shoulder. Mr. Larry Conlee truly is my role model and he will always be in my heart forever.” – Jayna Choi, 2014 champion
“It was amazing how well-run this tournament was. Mr. Larry Conlee did everything possible to make it a great event, and I was honored to win it.” – Alexander DeRosa, 2014 champion
“Back in 2013, I arrived to Memphis for the first time and was met with an incredibly hospitable community. The genuine sincerity and love for the game is very prominent among the tournament committee, local volunteers and staff. The amount of passion and dedication everyone at the Bubba puts in is very heartwarming, making my 2013 win all the more sweet. What makes the Bubba Conlee so special is not only the history behind the event, but also the kind of people who have organized the tournament all these years.” – Rachel Dai, 2013 champion
“The Bubba Conlee tournament has so much purpose and history. Winning such a significant event was amazing and definitely one of the highlights in my junior golf career.” – Braden Thornberry, 2013 champion