Ulp caps summer as Grand Champion

File Photo Bailey Ulp is a junior golfer at North Gwinnett High School.

File Photo Bailey Ulp is a junior golfer at North Gwinnett High School.

Bailey Ulp began playing on the Atlanta Junior Golf Association tour at age 8.

He knows most of the players and has watched his game grow each summer playing in AJGA and other tours' events. And this summer, the North Gwinnett golfer, saw his game take big strides and ended it with a victory in the AJGA's most prestigious event, the Grand Championship.

Ulp won the three-day tournament with a disappointing score, but topped his closest competitors by four strokes. He shot a three-day 7-over on the par-71 course.

"My goal going into the tournament was to be even-par at the end," Ulp said. "So, I played pretty well. It wasn't awful."

Winning is never awful. And winning the Grand Championship was even more special for Ulp who's played in the event year after year.

"Because I've been playing (AJGA) so long (the Grand Championship) is the one I've been trying to win," Ulp said. "It's been five, six years I've been trying to win it, and I finally just got it done."

Ulp opened the tournament with an even-par 71 and saw his scores rise over the next two rounds, but the even-par opening round gave him a cushion big enough to survive the higher scores. John Creeks' Hayden Poole, one of two runner ups, opened with an 82 and Dallas' Barrett Waters, a friend and familiar competitor of Ulp's, stumbled with a 76 on Day 2.

"There were some good players," Ulp said. "It was a lot of the same guys that play junior golf. It's always fun because it's the same people."

To be eligible for the Grand Championship, players must compete in five AJGA events over the summer and looking back through Ulp's scores, the improvement is evident.

In his first two events, Ulp shot 83s. He finished third in the two-day Atlanta-Kauai Team Challenge Qualifier and second in events at the Chattahooche Golf Course and the Cherokee Town and Country Club with scores in the 70s. In his final AJGA event before the Grand Championship, Ulp won at the Country Club of Gwinnett with a 69. He also played events on the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour and in one American Junior event before ceding his tournament play to school.

"It started getting better," Ulp said of his scores. "That's the gist of it."