Come late September, the immediate future will be on the line for 118 golfers. But for two more in the field of 120 at the Tuscaloosa Toyota Classic, the future is already secured.
Two teenagers, 15-year-old Molly Brown Davidson and 16-year-old Emerson Blair, have received sponsor exemptions to play in the Epson Tour event at Tuscaloosa’s Ol’ Colony on Sept. 26-Oct. 2.
Davidson will be a sophomore at Hewitt-Trussville when she tees off. Blair, who’ll be a junior, is from West Point, Miss., and takes online classes.
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The Epson Tour is a qualifier for the LPGA. With the exception of Davidson and Blair, the Tuscaloosa field will be comprised of professional golfers. It’s the last regular-season stop before the tour’s championship, where the cream of the crop will emerge as card-carrying members of the LPGA.
Davidson and Blair will get valuable experience and a taste of their dreams of someday playing professional golf. This will be the first pro tournament for both, although neither is a stranger to playing in major events. When Blair was 9, she won the national Drive, Chip and Putt competition. It was held at Augusta National.
“I got to be inside the clubhouse, the driving range, the chipping green. I putted on eight. It was amazing. After I won, I got to go inside the pressroom where all the big-time professional golfers go. I got to eat in the clubhouse where I saw a lot of pros. I got to go behind the scenes, inside the ropes. I stood like 5 feet from Tiger Woods,” said Blair, whose family lives off the 18th hole at Old Waverly and won her first tournament at age 7.
Davidson has been eyeing the tour since she was 10 or 11.
“I like how it leads into the LPGA and is a starter tour that can help you get better by playing in it,” Davidson said. “I’ve never competed in a pro tournament. I wouldn’t say I’m nervous. I’m just really excited to be able to experience that level of play. And it will be nice playing that close to home.”
Davidson won the AHSAA individual championship and seven high school tournaments in 2022. She won the Alabama Junior Golf championship and, at 14, the Alabama State Amateur. She finished second, twice, in the American Junior Golf Association championship and played on the AGA’s winning Southern Cup team.
Blair, the 2020 Mississippi Girl’s Junior Amateur champion, competed against pros in the US Open qualifier. She played in the 2021 USGA Women’s Amateur and the USGA Four-Ball, the PGA Girl’s Junior and won the fall 2021 Pride of the South tournament by 13 strokes.
“A lot of those girls I’ve played against are on the Epson tour now,” Blair said. “It can be intimidating, but I think all the bigger tournaments I’ve played in have prepared me for that.”
Davidson and Blair are golf friends who contacted each other when they learned they made the Tuscaloosa field. Both hope to get in a practice round at Ol’ Colony soon. Davidson has competed there before, shooting as low as a 69. Blair has never played the course.
Said Blair, who is being recruited by schools including Alabama, “Obviously, you always want to do as well as you can. I just want to take in the week and go shot-by-shot and hole-by-hole and just try to pull out the best finish that I can. It’s really great to play in a tournament like this because it will give me a peek into the future.”