JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
BURNET — Burnet Junior Golf Association president Stuart Beckwith has played and guided numerous golfers on various courses across the state of Texas.
Now he is using that knowledge and love of the sport to host a tournament in Florida.
The event is Dec. 28-30 at the Magnolia Golf Course in Orlando, Florida, which has played host to PGA tournaments.
“Disney World is the most fabulous place on Earth,” Beckwith said. “There’s something magical about playing there. I’m excited to start a tradition of playing golf there.”
The Marble Falls High School Lady Mustangs will compete in the tournament.
“It ought to be nice,” head coach Lonnie Tackitt said.
This event has been many months in the making. Beckwith talked to coaches about his desire to have a holiday tournament elsewhere. Tackitt said it didn’t take him long to agree.
“I’d been looking for somewhere to take the girls,” he said. “They had such a fantastic year (last season). I told them about it in August at Meet the Mustangs that it looks like it’ll be in Orlando over Christmas.”
The Lady Mustangs qualified for the Class 5A Region IV tournament, where they finished with a 704, a new program record, after taking second place at the District 25-5A tournament with a two-round total of 706. Two of the players, including Delaney Kelley who is back this year, shot a new personal best at the district tournament.
A year earlier, they shot a 757 to finish third at the district tournament, one place shy of qualifying for regionals, despite setting numerous program records. They missed the playoffs by three strokes.
Joining Kelley on the trip to Florida are Kelsey Tackitt, Blaire Hambrick and Kassidy Reitan.
Beckwith has taken some basketball teams to Disney World for tournaments. Because of those experiences, he thought hosting a golf tournament there would be difficult for teams to say no to. And he was right. He said about 50 golfers have signed up.
“We’re excited about that number,” he said. “We sent out several invitations. I think it’ll pay off next year.”
One group that won’t make the trip is the Burnet High School golf team, though Beckwith, who is the Burnet Middle School girls athletic coordinator and high school girls coach, said he hopes that changes in 2016.
Traveling to Florida to play in a tournament isn’t unique for Marble Falls. A decade ago, Tackitt took the boys golf team to the Sunshine State in June, around the time Josh Price won the Class 4A state championship in 2004.
Tackitt said he had several good reasons for taking such a long trip. Aside from weather and playing a PGA course, the close quarters will force the golfers to build rapport, he said.
“I want the girls to travel together, to get something they could remember,” he said. “There are great courses here we can play during the day and then drive home. But when you make a trip like this, it’s something you’re going to remember.”
Not one penny of taxpayer money was used for the trip, he said, though the Marble Falls Independent School District board of trustees had to give permission to allow the trip. Instead, the money is coming from the program’s activity account, which is used to take care of things not covered by the budget.
“The school is paying the entry fee, which they would for any tournament,” he said. “We’d pay that if we were in Texas anyway.”
Tackitt said he and the golfers are looking forward to making new memories and hitting a stride for another year to remember.
“We’re going to play well and try to win the thing and have great memories,” he said.