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
— 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 total after winning by eight shots in 2011 at 20 under following impressive rounds of 62-66-68. Last year’s playoff participants Luke Potter and champion Caleb Surratt each finished at 14 under, the second-best 54-hole total in event history.
On the flipside, the girl’s record books are primed for filling after last year’s inaugural event. Shoemaker holds the mark for lowest score with her 7-under 65 in the second round in 2022, which was two shots better than Davis’ 5-under 67 in the opening round.
Leth-Nissen and Shoemaker each finished at 5 under for the tournament before their playoff.
It’s finally here! We’re set up and ready to go for the 2023 Junior Invitational. pic.twitter.com/NHzLrctvK5
— Junior Invitational (@JrInviteSage) March 12, 2023
2011: Nicholas Reach
2012: Zachary Olsen
2013: Carson Young
2014: Scottie Scheffler
2015: Marcus Kinhult
2016: Austin Eckroat
2017: Joaquin Niemann
2018: Akshay Bhatia
2019: Tom McKibbin
2020: Jackson Van Paris
2022: Caleb Surratt (boys), Amalie Leth-Nissen (girls)