Joiner’s golf game on course for the flag |

Joiner’s golf game on course for the flag

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

CARBONDALE – If you’re trying to track down A.J. Joiner this summer, there’s really only one place to look – the golf course.Aside from working a few hours a week for his dad, T.J. Joiner of T.J. Concrete Construction, the 18-year-old 2006 Roaring Fork High School graduate’s life pretty much revolves around golf.Which is the grand plan, after all.Following a successful prep golf career that included a fourth-place finish in the Class 4A Colorado High School State Golf Championships last fall, Joiner has put together a string of top finishes on the Colorado Golf Association (CGA) juniors tour this summer.

Early last month, Joiner won a CGA Daily Sentinel Junior Golf Tournament in Grand Junction over local rivals Conner Rakowski, Jim Knous and Teddy Karlinski. And on July 19, he took second place in the CGA Junior Stroke Play Championships at Boulder’s Flatirons Golf Course with a three-round score of 208 – one stroke back of champion Tyler Parsloe.”I had a good opportunity to win the stroke play tournament, but I’m still leaving a lot of strokes out there,” Joiner said during a quick interview at his home Aspen Glen Golf Course last week, before teeing off for one of his daily nine-hole practice rounds.”I really feel like the best golf is ahead of me,” he said. “If I can capitalize on those opportunities, I know I can finish even better. Especially at the college level, I can’t let those strokes get away.”Joiner is already getting a taste of collegiate-level play, even before heading off later this month to attend college and play golf for perennial junior college powerhouse South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.He placed sixth in a Collegiate Players Tour (CPT) tournament at Saddleback Golf Club in Firestone in July to grab the final qualifying spot for this week’s CPT National Championship at Texas Star Golf Course outside Dallas.

The CPT is open to current and incoming collegiate players in all divisions, from junior college (JUCO) to Division I. After a first-day, 18-hole round of 75 on Tuesday, and a 74 on Wednesday, Joiner was in the middle of a pack of 57 golfers headed into the final round. Joiner shot an 83 on the last day to take 40th in the tournament.Joiner knows he needs to take his game up a notch to compete at the collegiate level. The JUCO circuit will provide a good training ground to do that.South Mountain Community College (SMCC) won the JUCO Nationals three years ago, and just missed qualifying for nationals this past spring. But with a strong group of recruits, including Joiner, the program looks to rebuild.Joiner received a SMCC golf scholarship, and was also the recipient of the locally prestigious Trashmasters Golf Scholarship, which is awarded annually to the top graduating golf prospects in the Roaring Fork Valley.The regular JUCO season takes place in the spring, but the SMCC team will play a series of tournaments this fall, including at least one that invites NCAA Division I players to participate, Joiner said.

Joiner’s goal is to transfer to a DI school in two years, possibly in Florida. He also plans to be active on the USGA Amateur tour, with the ultimate goal of making the PGA Tour down the road.”I’ve played in the U.S. Open qualifier,” Joiner said. “It’s definitely a different level of competition.”He knows it will take a lot of hard work – and a lot of luck – to someday make the PGA Tour. Even the golfers who are lucky enough to make the PGA Tour don’t make it until their late 20s, so Joiner is patient. These days, his routine includes at least nine holes of golf a day and a fair amount of time hitting balls on the practice range every afternoon.”I have to focus on getting more of a consistent start,” Joiner said. “In the stroke play tournament, I started kind of slow and then picked it up. It doesn’t hurt me that bad, but it is the difference between winning tournaments and taking second.”In high school, I could make mistakes and still win tournaments. I know I can’t do that now,” he said. “I just have to play as much as I can, and the more I play the more experience I gain.”

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