Craig Harris/Macon County Times Lafayette's Maddox Crowder shot 73 in the qualifying round of last year's Tennessean/Metro Parks Schooldays Golf Tournament.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Lafayette's Maddox Crowder shot 73 in the qualifying round of last year's Tennessean/Metro Parks Schooldays Golf Tournament.

Lafayette's Maddox Crowder enters the 95th annual Tennessean/Metro Parks Schooldays Golf Tournament as the favorite in the 12-13-year-old division.

It's the price to pay as the defending champion.

"I look forward to it," Crowder said. "I expect to win it again … I still have to play good, play hard."

Crowder will return to Nashville's McCabe Golf Course to defend his title next Tuesday. The tournament runs through Thursday.

As a 12-year-old last June, Crowder emerged victorious among four semifinalists, a group that consisted of three 13-year-olds.

"It gave me a lot confidence," Crowder said. "(After that), I knew I could beat better players than me.

"I feel good about match play."

Schooldays consists of a stroke-play qualifying round on Tuesday, followed by match play on Wednesday and Thursday.

Crowder shot 73 to qualify last year before getting to compete in match play for the first time.

"It was pretty awesome," Crowder said. "I really didn't know what to expect. It was more fun."

Crowder defeated Nashville 13-year-old Jack Taylor on the second playoff hole of last year's championship match, and he knocked off Franklin's Ethon Stanford III - who shot 70 in the qualifying round - by winning on the 18th hole in the semifinal round.

Crowder has played in just one match-play setting since Schooldays last year.

"It's easier to forget your bad holes," Crowder said of Schooldays. "I do enjoy it. I do like the pressure.

"I just have to rely on what I've practiced all year, what I've practiced forever. Hopefully, it works out."

The 13-year-old said that he's improved considerably in terms of the distance off of the tee.

"My driving is a lot longer," Crowder - who receives individual lessons from Johnny Warren - said. "I'm hitting it further. My long game is a lot better. It's (a matter of) getting older, getting stronger."

Crowder is a rising seventh-grader at Macon County Junior High, and he recently placed fourth at the Tennessee Middle School Golf Association Middle Region Tournament, producing a two-round total of 149 (77-72).

"My short game has been off a little, but I expect to get it back," Crowder said. "But I've had some good rounds … and some bad rounds … but mostly good."

The tournament - which is the longest continuous golf tournament in Tennessee - is for golfers age 12-17.

Manchester 17-year-old Ashley Gilliam is the three-time defending champion, and she'll be seeking to become the first female four-time champion.

Clarksville 15-year-old Patton Samuels is also back as a defending champion.

The top 16 boys in the 14-17-year-old age division advance to match play, as do the top eight girls. However, only four boys advance in the 12-13-year-old age group.

Boys in the younger age division can opt to play in the 14-17-year-old division for match play if they post a qualifying score that's low enough.

"I would play in the older group," Crowder said. "It's better competition. It would be tougher, but I'm used to that kind of play."

Macon County High seniors McKaylee Mix and Hayden Shockley, junior Isaac Meador and sophomore Matthew Henderson are also expected to compete at Schooldays.