The Albertsons Boise Open frequently has used sponsor’s exemptions on intriguing young players who will generate fan interest.
This year, tournament organizers didn’t have to look beyond the Treasure Valley.
Graysen Huff, who graduated from Cole Valley Christian in May and will join the Auburn golf team next month, tees off against the pros beginning Thursday at Hillcrest Country Club.
Huff, 18, was named the 2014 Pacific Northwest Golf Association Junior of the Year. He helped Eagle High stretch its streak of 5A state titles to six in May and won AJGA tournaments in Alabama and Arizona about a month ago.
“There is not a whole lot out here that is unknown to me,” Huff said Monday after a practice round at Hillcrest. “It’s not the course that is going to be different this week. It’s going to be the people I’m playing with and the atmosphere around me.”
Previous Boise Open exemptions have gone to the likes of 13-year-old Michelle Wie (2003), 16-year-old Tadd Fujikawa (2007) and Rickie Fowler (2009), a current PGA Tour star who made his pro debut at Hillcrest. None of them made the cut.
Huff, like those three, dreams of a future as a pro golfer. He’ll get a feel for how his game fits this week.
His primary goal is the same as every other player in the field: win. But he’s wise enough to know he’s a long shot.
“Realistically, there are little goals I’m trying to obtain. Being under par the first two days would be fantastic,” he said. “Not a lot of guys do that in their first tour event. Making the cut would be even better.”
Huff has played competitive golf for just four years — a rapid rise. He competed on the tennis court and played golf on the side before that.
At Auburn, he’ll join one of the best college teams in the nation. The Tigers were ranked eighth going into the NCAA Tournament this spring and finished 12th. Huff is one of four incoming freshmen who will join the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year and an All-SEC senior, among others, on a talented roster.
Huff will have to fight just to crack the lineup.
“There’s a lot of really young kids who are starting to play well on big stages,” he said. “So I’m excited to see where I stack up and where I go. I know there’s a learning curve and I’m going to need some work, but it’s going to be fun.”
He was talking about college golf. He could have been describing this week, too.
“When you’re that young, you’ve just got to enjoy the moment,” said Tyler Aldridge, the Vallivue High graduate and tour veteran who ranks eighth on the Web.com Tour money list this year. “It’s not very often somebody his age is able to play in a tournament like this. You’ve just got to embrace it and learn from it.”