Anna Davis and Aldrich Potgieter lead the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, where no lane is safe

GRANITEVILLE, SC — Players at the 2023 Sage Valley Junior Invitational will be treated like royalty from the moment they step inside the picturesque property tucked behind the South Carolina pines. They also have 18 king and queen sized challenges waiting for them once they put a tee in the ground.

Known as one of, if not the, best junior golf tournament in the world, this year’s Junior Invitational – which features a field of the best girls and boys from around the world – was a survival-of-the-fittest this week and Friday Test second round at Sage Valley Golf Club was no different. The wind was strong and for the second day in a row the results were the same.

First round leaders Anna Davis and Aldrich Potgieter remain at the top of the leaderboard, but each has a few players within striking distance entering the final round.

Davis celebrates 17thth birthday with victory

Davis turned 17 on Friday and celebrated with a five-stroke lead on the field to maintain a commanding lead ahead of Saturday’s finals.

“It was kind of like yesterday, I hit almost every fairway and green and then a putt or two and then on to the next hole,” said Davis, who was unhappy with her putting on Thursday despite hitting an early lead at 2 under 70. The reigning Augusta National Women’s Amateur Champion started Friday a shot better with 3 under 69.”

Nika Ito is tied for solo second with Fiona Xu and Andrea Revuelta T-3 with 2 overs. Kati Li and Bailey Shoemaker round out the top five with 3 overs.

While you might think that a five-to-eight shot lead is insurmountable, don’t forget what happened last year at Sage Valley, where Shoemaker lost a seven-shot lead on the final round and ended up trailing Amalie Leth. Nissen in a playoff.

“I love coming from behind, I think that’s the best place to be. Having a head start is pretty difficult, especially when you have a two-day head start,” explained Shoemaker, a USC commit. “I know what happened to me last year, so I’d like to turn the tables and get my own little taste of it. Hopefully, hopefully I can do it a little bit like Amalie did to me last year.

“I’ve been thinking about Sage Valley for the last three months, hoping to get my little taste of revenge. Hopefully I can shoot something tomorrow and just post the result and give it a shot.”

Can anyone catch Potgieter?

Over on the boys’ side, Potgieter has a five-shot lead of his own after following a Thursday 65 with a Friday 70 to sit at 9 under, but he’s not the only player low this week. Connor Williams, who will travel to Arizona State in the fall, blasted a 5-under 67 with no bogey on Friday to short Eduardo Derbez Torres (68) for the day’s bottom loop.

“Honestly, the first few holes that I hit really well gave me chances. I had a hard run off the #7-10 tee, hit a really bad drive on 10, but got a good break off a kickback in the fairway,” Williams said of his round. “From there I holed, made it low and made a good eagle on 15, hit a really good drive and just a 7-iron in it, that helped a lot. Have it closed well.

“You have to give each shot your full attention because you know the next one can be just as hard,” added Williams, who became friends with Potgieter after sharing a cottage with him this week. “I did a great job with that today. I went step by step, didn’t really get beyond myself and it worked out well.”

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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek

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