Former Central York standout returns to competition vs. elite field of young golfers
- Carson Bacha will play in an elite amateur golf tournament in Texas next week.
- Bacha has been playing 36 holes per day while living in Florida.
- PGA Tour legend John Daly's son, John Daly Jr., will also play in the event.
When the sports world was put on pause in March, Carson Bacha just kept going.
The Central York High School graduate was part of likely the last U.S. sporting event to take place before the COVID-19 pandemic halted all events — the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club.
Two days after nearly every professional and collegiate sports league suspended or canceled their seasons, Bacha and a field of 54 amateur golfers and their families soldiered on and finished the tournament in South Carolina without spectators on March 14.
Once Bacha got back to Florida, where the incoming Auburn University freshman has spent half of his previous school years to continue playing golf during the winter months, he kept playing. The course in the central Florida golf community he stays at with family friends never closed despite the pandemic and Bacha saw it as an opportunity to improve while other golfers used the time to rest.
“If you took advantage of it, and I know some people that kind of took it as a break and I mean that’s OK to them, but I tried to take it as something to try to use as an advantage for me and really work on my game, put in a lot of work, practice every day and try to get ahead,” Bacha said.
Bacha said he has averaged nearly 36 holes of golf per day and began to run three miles each morning while the community gym was closed until two weeks ago. He planned to return to Pennsylvania at the end of May, but without a formal graduation ceremony at Central York he remains in Florida.
Time for tournaments: After months of practice and shots with no real stakes attached to them, Bacha’s calendar has started to fill up again. The reigning PIAA Class 3-A state champion had four events canceled since March, including a U.S. Open qualifier, but will get to compete against other golfers starting next week.
The first tournament on Bacha’s schedule is the Maridoe Junior Invitational at Maridoe Golf Club in Texas next week. Bacha got a message from his friend and University of Texas commit Tommy Morrison about the event being organized at Morrison’s home course.
He was excited for the opportunity to get back to playing some competitive golf when he got the invite, but more so to see the friends he has made across the country playing elite-level junior golf.
“That’s kind of the awesome thing about it,” Bacha said. “Once you get to the top of junior golf, you start to see all the same kids at all the same events. Playing at the top level for probably two years, I have become friends with kids from all over the country. Obviously we’re competing and everybody is trying to win, but it’s fun because you’re surrounded by all your buddies you don’t get to see much, especially with such a long break from golf.”
There might be lots of laughs and smiles on the course, but to leave Texas with the championship trophy Bacha knows he will have to play at a high level against a loaded field of players. He said the group consists of mostly golfers ranked in the top 100 boys’ junior rankings by GolfWeek, with most headed to top-flight golf colleges..
The field includes: Bacha (No. 48, Auburn); Luke Potter (No. 3, Arizona State); Michael Brennan (No. 15, Wake Forest); and Caden Fiorini (No. 22, Pepperdine) to name just a few.
Also part of the tournament is the son of PGA Tour legend John Daly. John Daly Jr. can reach 300 yards with his driver and his father recently said that his son outhits him now.
“Junior golf is honestly a lot like professional golf,” Bacha said. “There are so many really good players out there in these tournaments (that) if it’s anybody’s week, anybody can win. That’s the great thing about it.”
Coronavirus on campus: Bacha has three more tournaments planned for the remainder of June into July before he prepares for his fall season at Auburn. Right now, Bacha said the plan is for him and fellow incoming freshmen to arrive on campus in early August.
He added that he will have to get to Auburn a week before other students to go through a seven-day quarantine. The plans for how athletes will be monitored and tested for COVID-19 haven’t been announced by Auburn yet, but Bacha said he’s been told his temperature will be checked before he enters each building on campus and athletes will be tested weekly, with a 21-day quarantine and recovery period required after a positive test.
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Thursday, Auburn football players will return to campus and be tested for COVID-19 before team activities begin next week. The university announced on May 29 that on-campus instruction will be allowed beginning on June 29. Auburn’s conference — the Southeastern Conference — has not announced plans for testing athletes, but Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said this week that the schools in his conference will hold weekly testing.
All of the added measures add a lot of things for Bacha to think about on top of heading off to college and playing top-level golf, but he knows the school is trying to keep him and his teammates healthy.
“I understand they have to be cautious about it, they have to be safe about it,” Bacha said. “It’s just what we have to deal with. It’s what is being thrown our way and we have to deal with it.”
The next level: After months of lonely rounds in Florida, Bacha is excited for a chance to see how all the time spent on the course has benefited him. Almost three months after he played in one of the last sporting events in the U.S., Bacha is excited to get the feeling of competition back.
His dominant high school career is over and now he’s ready to see how he compares to the next wave of elite golfers from across the country.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Bacha said. “It’s starting to hit me that I’m moving to the next level. At all these tournaments I’m going to be playing against kids with university names on their golf bags, so that will be pretty cool. It will be cool to put my game up against theirs and see where I fall out and know what I need to work on for the rest of the summer to prepare for the fall.”
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.