D.A. Points knows the importance of opportunity, so he is helping to create one for junior golfers around the world and, specifically, here in Central Illinois.

The D.A. Points Junior Open is set for July 10-12 on his home course at the Pekin Country Club. The tournament is part of the American Junior Golf Association Tour and will be co-sponsored by Pekin Insurance and Unity Point Health.

“The AJGA is one of the really bright spots in all of golf. It’s basically the PGA Tour for junior golf,” said Points, the 1993 IHSA Class AA state champion from Pekin High School and a three-time winner on the PGA Tour.

In addition, the River Cup Foundation of Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties on June 13 will sponsor a local qualifier that will land its top two finishers exempt spots in the 54-hole main event.

After winning the state title and leading Pekin to the team state championship, Points became an all-American at the University of Illinois and also won three Illinois state amateur championships. He joined the Web.com Tour in 2001 and earned his PGA Tour card for the first time in 2005.

Six years later, he splashed onto the national golf scene by winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Memorably, he not only won the individual crown but also the pro-am with comedian Bill Murray, and they’ve been friends ever since.

“Bill is like the coolest big older brother that I never had,” Points said. “He’s just a very sweet man. He cares a lot about me and my family … checks in on us. If I have a good round, or if I’m struggling, he’ll call and give me a pep talk, which I really appreciate.”

The victory at Pebble Beach launched a stretch in which Points finished among the top 50 in the FedEx Cup standings three years in a row, peaking at No. 25 in 2013. Now 41 years old, he is 205th in the standings this year, with career earnings of more than $11 million and additional PGA Tour victories at the Shell Houston Open in 2013 and the Puerto Rico Open in 2017.

Points said he found the AJGA tournaments great preparation for his professional career. He remembers his first AJGA event, in Flint, Mich., when he was a teenager.

“My parents and I drove up there and stayed in a hotel, I learned a new course, did all the things you have to do today on the PGA Tour,” Points said. “(AJGA) is such a great avenue for kids to experience what it’s like, even if they don’t turn professional. It gives you one more chance learning how to do that.”

Points and his young family live in Windermere, Fla., now. But his parents still live in Pekin, and he calls the Pekin Country Club his home course. It’s where he learned to play the game.

“From touching a club the first time, when I was 18 months old, to playing every Friday morning for junior golf and practicing, even after I became a professional,” Points said. “It means a lot to me to bring this event there and showcase what a wonderful place that is.”

He also stressed the importance of supporting junior golf, to ensure the long-term health of the sport.

Supporting junior and school golf programs in the area is the mission of the River Cup Foundation, which sponsors the local qualifier at Lick Creek Golf Course in Pekin.

Boys aged 12-19 who have not started college are eligible. Two exempt spots and four alternate spots in the D.A. Points Junior Open are at stake. Entry fee is $75. Entry forms are available at rivercup.com.

The AJGA will conduct another qualifier on July 8 at Lick Creek, with boys and girls eligible. The tournament will begin July 10 at the country club, with a field of 96 golfers playing three rounds over three days. There will be no cut.

The Open also will sponsor a Junior-Am on July 9 at Pekin Country Club, with proceeds to support various charities and junior golf programs. Foursomes will be formed by three participants and one of the exempt players from the Open. Entry is $500 per player. For information, contact Rich Hallam (rhallam@pekinparkdistrict.org, 309-353-5330).

Kirk Wessler is Journal Star sports editor. Contact him at kwessler@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @KirkWessler.