By JOSH FRYE
Poarch Creek Indians tribal member Jerry Sanchez Jr. captured the national championship in the Snead Flight Division of the 2019 Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships in West Palm Beach, Fla. last Friday, September 20.
The 30-year-old Sanchez, who first began playing golf just over six years ago, posted a score of 75 on the PGA National Resort and Spa Course in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Sanchez explained this week that the Golf Channel Am Tour is designed for amateur players from all across the United States who want to take their game to the next challenge level.
“I discovered my love for golf just over six years ago,” Sanchez said. “I was introduced to the game by some friends and I fell in love with it. I was terrible at first but over time, I have improved.”
Sanchez, who holds strong in his Christian faith, stressed that the invitation to the tournament was a blessing in itself.
According to Sanchez, players are able to qualify for the tournament if they meet certain criteria which requires at least three tournament wins during the year.
“This is a huge event,” he said. “I am just so grateful and blessed to have the opportunity. I didn’t expect to win, but I knew anything was possible. I just set out to do the best I possibly could.”
The tournament lasted four days and was played on the PGA Honda Classic’s Bear Trap Course. The Bear Trap is a course of 18 challenging holes and is home to the PGA Champion Course, where some of the best golf players in the world generate some of the biggest and most exciting wins in the PGA.
“It was an experience playing on the same course as of some of golf’s greats,” Sanchez said.
During the end of the first day of the tournament, Sanchez found himself behind by one shot. On day two, the local golfer finished up by five shots.
During the third day of play, Sanchez stressed that this was his most challenging day, as he was faced by Bellevue, Washington native Chuck Gillam. Sanchez and Gillam were neck-to-neck all day, but Sanchez walked away with a one-stroke lead over his rival.
During day four, Sanchez pulled in the win by 8 strokes.
“During Hole 17, I knew the win was in sight,” the Poarch native said. “I had to sink a 10-foot putt for par and was successful. I birdied the last hole and captured the championship.”
No Alabama resident had ever won his or her flight in championship competition. Sanchez’s win, along with a first place showing by Jay Gregory of Lineville in the Championship Division, means the state now has two such winners.
“I can’t express how much I appreciate everyone’s support and love,” Sanchez said. “The tribe — along with my family, friends and other members of the community — have given me so much support and words of encouragement. It means a lot to me to be able to bring this championship to my tribe, and I am proud to be Poarch Creek. I give all the glory to God.”
Sanchez stated during the tournament: “Win or lose, I am still going to glorify God. He is the reason that I have made it this far, not only in golf, but in life.”
The statement is a judgement of Sanchez’s character and now he has become a role model for local aspiring golfers.