For everything that has occurred in the golfing world since Tom Robertson and colleagues gave birth to the Scott Robertson Memorial golf tournament in 1984, the annual event that draws some of North America’s best young golfers to the Roanoke Country Club is as strong as ever.
Debbie Ferguson, the executive director since 2000, reports that there were close to 550 applications for this year’s field, which will close with 165 entrants.
“It’s full,” she said. “That’s capacity. It’s been capacity.”
There will be four different divisions for boys and girls ranging in age groups from 14 and under to 15-18.
About the tournament
What: The Scott Robertson Memorial Tournament is a national tournament for teen golfers.
When: May 19-21.
Where: Roanoke County Club
For more information: scottrobertson.com
“I’ve got a lot of telephone numbers in my phone,” Young said in a recent interview midway from her home in Rocky Mount to the north side of Roanoke.
“Oh, gosh, I have a knot in my stomach every year when the applications stop and we have to sit down and select the fields because a lot of people are going to be upset,” she said.
“There are great golfers out there and I know how hard it is when your child’s not selected.”
One of the most distinguished golfers to play in the Robertson is Nelly Korda, a seven-time winner on the LPGA Tour who was an Olympic gold medalist in the women’s division in Tokyo.
“When Nelly Korda won the gold medal in the Olympics, I texted her dad,” Ferguson said. “They were watching it from home in Florida. I could tell he was bouncing off the walls himself. We’ve just made a lot of connections over the year.”
She singles out co-chairmen Tim Bibee and Matt McClung for roles similar to hers.
“They’re like me,” she said. “They’ve got a lot of phone numbers in their phones and they reach out to those kids when they’ve done well on the [pro] tour or collegiately.
“We say, after it’s over, whether you walk down the fairways of Roanoke Country Club once or many times, we always consider you one of our kids.”
There was a qualifier held in Roanoke prior to the selection of this year’s field and there was an opportunity to participate in a qualifier in Naples, Fla., current home of retired Carilion Clinic CEO Tom Robertson, whose son, Scott, was a promising junior golfer and ninth-grader at North Cross School in Roanoke when he died in 1982 from infectious mononucleosis.
“When Tom Robertson started it, it was just a time for him and his friends to get together,” said Tim McAfee, the head professional at RCC for the past 12 years. “It started to create some regional demand and then it just went global.”
Golfweek ranked The Scott Robertson Memorial as the 19th strongest field for boys and the 10th for girls among all junior tournaments in 2022. Top junior golfers from around the country — and their parents and coaching mentors — are looking for ways to score the points that rank them among junior golfers nationally.
“I would say, on any given PGA Tour event, you’re probably looking at a field with 10 or 15 percent who played here,” McAfee said. “On the LPGA [women’s] side, it’s probably 20 or 25 percent.
“The field is always sold out. It’s definitely got a huge economic impact in the community because you’re talking about 165 kids and their families.”
Families and spectators making their first trip to Roanoke and following the golfers will be able to see the names of past winners if they are inclined to walk the course.
“When you’re playing the golf course, if you don’t hit the ball in the fairway and you happen to be in the trees, you’ll see plaques everywhere with all the past champions,” McAfee said. A tree is planted each year in honor of the 15-18 champions.
“We did that years ago because there were so many pine trees that we tried to replace with hardwoods.”
As for the competition, McAfee points out that heavily recruited Blacksburg High School standout Jake Albert will be in the field, as will Kathryn Ha of Salem, who won the Class 4 state championship last fall as a sophomore and is considered to be the No. 1 girls’ prospect in the state.
“Next year is going to be the 40th anniversary,” Ferguson said. “It should be the 40th [anniversary] this year but we had to cancel in 2020. I don’t know who it’s going to be next year but it’s going to be kids just like it is every year.
“They’re going to be in the LPGA or the PGA in the very near future.”