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Local players look forward to APGA Tour Valley Forge event in Blue Bell driving diversity in golf

The 36-hole tournament runs Tuesday and Wednesday at Bluestone Country Club. Local contestants include South Jersey pro Louis Kelly and Jonathan Ortiz, a mini-tour pro from Lansdale.

Jonathan Ortiz grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, moved to Florida for a time and now lives in Lansdale.
Jonathan Ortiz grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, moved to Florida for a time and now lives in Lansdale.Read moreJonathan Ortiz

Maybe two of the happiest people preparing to tee off Tuesday in the APGA Tour Valley Forge golf tournament at Bluestone Country Club are Louis Kelly and Jonathan Ortiz, two young pros who competed in junior golf together in the Philadelphia area.

Kelly, an assistant professional at Metedeconk National Golf Club in Jackson Township, N.J., and Ortiz, a mini-tour pro, are among a field of more than 40 players scheduled to take part in the 36-hole event in Blue Bell with $25,000 in prize money at stake.

Sponsored by the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, the tournament is the 12th of 14 competitions in 2021 conducted by the Advocates Professional Golf Association, a nonprofit organization that strives to bring greater diversity to the game and provide opportunities for African Americans and other minorities in golf. It also is part of the three-event Farmers Insurance Fall Series, which offers $15,000 in bonus money.

Kelly, 28, of Sewell, Gloucester County, an alumnus of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia, said he knows a few players on the tour and is looking forward to the camaraderie

“I think most African Americans who play this game know that they’re a select few when they go to tournaments in different areas of the country,” he said last week. “So it’d be nice to see everybody who looks like you, so looking forward to that.

“There’s not a lot of Black golfers in this area as far as professionally. I know if you look at the APGA, most guys are down South or grew up down South. There’s not a lot of guys in the Northeast. So having the guys in the Northeast who are good players, I think that’s going to bring excitement to the area.”

Ortiz, 28, who grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, moved to Florida for a time and now lives in Lansdale, described having the tournament in his home area as “a really big deal for me.”

“There’s so much talent in the inner city,” he said. “If we can get people to stick with these kids and make sure they prosper … I was blessed to get the opportunity to move down to Florida, but things could have gone a different route coming from Kensington. I’ve had opportunities and I’ve had people that have interest in me.”

As for their junior golf days together, Kelly said Ortiz “was the child prodigy in Philly,” noting that he won a national Drive, Chip and Putt competition when he was 9 years old.

“Even though we’re right around the same age, I always looked up to Jon and his work ethic and what he’s been able to accomplish his whole golf career, not just junior golf,” Kelly said. “It’s good to see that he’s doing well and just looking forward to competing against him.”

Two amateurs from Bethlehem, 15-year-old Matthew Vital of Bethlehem and 24-year-old Zach Juhasz, are entered in the field.

The tournament features a number of past APGA champions including Orlando’s Kamaiu Johnson, who has competed in three PGA Tour events, and Jabir Bilal of Atlanta, who won the 2021 Georgia PGA Championship, the second African American to win any of the 41 PGA of America section championships in the association’s 105-year history.