Atkinson eyes state golf title

Published 12:03 am Friday, May 11, 2012

AHS senior Josh Atkinson will compete in the Class 4A state golf tournament Monday and Tuesday at Grand National's Links Course in Opelika. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Josh Atkinson picks his club, looks at the shot that he’s about to take and swings.

The ball sails just over the eighth green at Andalusia Country Club, and he makes par.

He goes on to bogey the Par 3 ninth to finish at 1-under for the day on Wednesday.

Atkinson, a senior at Andalusia High School, will compete in the Class 4A state golf tournament at Grand National’s Links Course in Opelika on Monday and Tuesday.

This will be his second consecutive year to play in the state tournament, and he said he’s “thrilled” to be one of the few left competing for a state title.

However, Atkinson was the first to note that he learned his lesson from last year, when he shot a 13 on one hole.

“I’m going to try and prevent that from happening again this year,” Atkinson said.

Since he was 6 or 7 years old, Atkinson has been playing nine holes of golf every other Saturday or Sunday with his father, Toby.

Atkinson said he didn’t start taking the game seriously until he was in the sixth grade.

By the next year, he had made the high school team as a seventh grader because seventh and eighth graders were allowed to play at the high school level.

From there, he said his game has continued to improve.

“I think my confidence level has probably grown in what I do,” Atkinson said. “I think I’ve become more consistent as I’ve grown older. I’ve grown wiser, and not necessarily made stupid decisions like I did when I was younger.”

This season, Atkinson was the low-medalist on the Bulldogs’ golf team, shooting the lowest round on a consistent basis.

“He always looks for improvement,” AHS coach Marshall Locke said. “Josh has exemplified that in scoring. He’s made state every year since I’ve been coach.

“He’s turned into a real fine golfer, but more importantly, a real fine person,” he said. “He’s become a leader and has really helped the younger guys improve their game.”

The last time Andalusia’s golf team played at Grand National was in 2007, when the Bulldogs were competing for a state title. AHS finished runner up that year.

Atkinson said he played at Grand National as a seventh grader during a practice round.

“It’s very tight and long,” he said about the course. “It’s just a course where you have to have all parts of your game plugging along.”

Atkinson will travel to Opelika this weekend and will get in a couple practice rounds before Monday’s start.

“It’s a tradition unlike any other,” he said about the tournament. “It’s a lot different than sectionals and sub state. Everybody’s attitude is a lot more serious. They mean business.

“Everybody wants the title,” he said. “I want it as well. I’d say I’m going in with the mind set to make no double bogeys. I’ve got to keep those off the scorecard. If I can do that, I feel like I can compete with anybody.”

And it’s his seriousness when he approaches a shot that Atkinson said is to his advantage on the course.

“I like to have a good time and talk to my playing partners, but at the same time when it comes to hitting the shot, it’s business,” he said. “My dad’s always told me is try to make peace with the golf course, and what he means by that is don’t slam your clubs, just be respectful to the course and it’ll treat you back in return.”

Right now, Atkinson said his short game — chipping and putting — is the best part of his game.

Atkinson will be attending Auburn University this fall, and said he’ll try and play golf for the Tigers if all goes well at state.

“I’m honored that I’m getting to go,” he said. “I wish the team could go. I’m glad I’m going individually, and I’m looking forward to representing Andalusia well.”

Atkinson is the son of Toby and Janet Atkinson of Andalusia.