GRANITEVILLE, S.C. — Founded in 2011, the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley has become one of, if not the, best competitions in junior golf.
This year’s event at Sage Valley Golf Club, a private, pristine gem of a course nestled among the pines less than 20 miles from famed Augusta National Golf Club, features a loaded field of some of junior golf’s best players from 17 different countries.
Junior Invitational returned to the amateur schedule in 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the 54-hole event featured a new wrinkle: a girls competition held concurrently alongside the boys. Last year’s event didn’t just include the first girls field, but also the first playoff. Not only that, both boys and girls champions were decided by a playoff.
With a pair of gold jackets on the line, here’s everything you need to know for this week’s 2023 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.
Meet Gianna Clemente: The 14-year-old who Monday-qualified for three consecutive LPGA events
Here’s the swing of @giaclementegolf, No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin junior rankings. She’ll tee it up at the @anwagolf in two weeks pic.twitter.com/SO9XockoJ6
— Golfweek (@golfweek) March 14, 2023
Neither defending champion will be back in 2023, but Bailey Shoemaker, who held a seven-shot lead entering the final round in 2022 and lost to girls champion Amalie Leth-Nissen in a playoff, returns as a favorite alongside 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion Anna Davis and nine of the top-10 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin girls ranking.
Of the 24 girls in the field, 13 are from the United States, with two from Spain and one from Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan.
The 36-player boys field includes the top-12 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin ranking, such as No. 1 Preston Stout and 2022 AJGA Player of the Year Eric Lee. A whopping 25 of the boys players hail from the United States, while Mexico and the United Kingdom each have two players in the field. Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Thailand each have one player in the field.
The lowest rounds recorded both occurred during the inaugural event in 2011, where both Nick Reach (first round) and Justin Thomas (final round) shot 10-under 62. The closest since? That’d be 2019 champion Tom McKibbin, who fired an 8-under 64 in his final round.
Reach also holds the record for lowest 54-hole…
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