Local high school programs from Pace, Milton and Central were just a few of many represented in the fifth annual Byron Nathan Classic at the Stonebrook Golf Course on Wednesday. Many participants are still getting into the swing of things early in the golf season.

Local high school programs from Pace, Milton and Central were just a few of many schools represented in the fifth annual Byron Nathan Classic at the Stonebrook Golf Course on Wednesday. Many participants are still getting into the swing of things early in the golf season.

Murry Rutledge, who serves as the Milton High School boys golf coach in addition to the school’s athletic director, said this tournament will only benefit his team throughout the season.

“We have a lot of inexperienced players,” Rutledge said. “Hopefully, they are going to get better and better the more they play and the more they practice. We got some good kids and we are working at it.”

Out of the nine players on the team, MHS has one returning senior in Hunter Mann who recently moved to the area from Tennessee.

Mann, who previously contributed to a successful golf program in Tennessee, is focused on the season ahead.

“We are going to try and do good and keep it straight,” Mann said.

In his third year on the Pace High School boys golf team, Trent Moulder believes this will be a good season for the Patriots Golf team after the team placed first place in the Santa Rosa Tournament at the Tanglewood Golf Course on September 3.

Moulder, the junior classman, said he has found a better approach the game.

“I have learned that you got to be patient when you play golf,” Moulder said. “You can’t get frustrated. You just got to keep moving.”

Moulder believes he has improved on his short game which is big point of emphasis of his golf coach Keith Kirchharr.

Kirchharr said participation has steadily increased in the tournament from around 80 when the tournament began to just shy of 100 participants on Wednesday. High school players, representing schools from Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties, competed at the Stonebrook tournament, which continues to honor former Pace students Byron Thompson and Nathan Melton. Kirchharr said both Melton and Thompson, who competed alongside each other on the school’s golf and basketball teams, were tragically killed in separate traffic incidents.  

“They were great kids…what a better way to honor them,” Kirchharr said.

In addition to honoring both Thompson and Melton, this early-season golf tournament allows each team to see the level of talent from their competition this season, Kirchharr said. 

“You will figure out today who the better teams in your district are and who the better players are,” Kirchharr said.

The Fort Walton Beach High School team took first place in the tournament with a score of 294, with Niceville High School (309) in second, South Walton High School (321) in third and Pace High School (323) coming in fourth.

Tyler Cohen of Fort Walton Beach took first place in shooting with a score of 70. Nolan Remig of Gulf Breeze High School took second place with a score of 72. Parker Jones of Fort Walton Beach took third place with a score of 73 and Brian Richards of Gulf Breeze took the fourth place prize with a score of 74.