GRANITEVILLE, SC – Last year’s Junior Invitational in Sage Valley featured two playoffs to determine the boys’ and girls’ titles. The theme of this year’s event was Wire-to-Wire Winners.
Aldrich Potgieter and Anna Davis have been at the front of the nation’s best junior tournament all week and will leave the pristine club among the South Carolina pines with the event’s trophies and signature gold jackets. Each player went into Saturday’s finals five shots ahead and won in impressive style.
“I went into the week to win and I thought I was going to win,” Davis said after the final round. “I’ve always had high expectations of myself.”
Nika Ito, who finished second solo, cupped for eagle on the 17 from the fairwayth hole to put pressure on Davis, who kept an eye on the rankings all afternoon.
“This is my second time holed up with the lead, so I was used to it and I was like, ‘Okay, it’s fine. It’s happening,'” Davis said. “When you’re in that position, you have to expect things like this to happen, lest you be caught off guard.”
Davis responded with a “pretty bad second shot” that narrowly avoided the water guarding the 17th Green.
“I had space because I’m left-handed. If I was right-handed, I would have been standing in the water,” Davis explained. From there, the rising star followed Ito’s lead, interfering to stop the momentum swing.
Davis, an Auburn committer, turned 17 on Friday and celebrated her birthday by putting in the winning putt right off the 18th green with some pride to finish the tournament 7-under.
“Kind of a douche bag move,” she said with a chuckle after the round. “From the face of the putter I was like, ‘This has to be in there,’ so I went in.”
Ito finished two shots back at 5-under 67 while Kiara Romero was in third place after shooting the day’s low round at 5-under 67.
Next up for Davis is her title defense in two weeks time at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, where she will come with even more pressure and expectations after her win in 2022.
“I think it just helps to know that I can play in this area,” Davis said of the momentum she will carry for her ANWA title defense. “Augusta and Champions Retreat are very similar to this course. I think just being able to play this kind of golf and being comfortable and familiar with the area always helps a lot. I think that contributed to my win last year.”
Potgieter, the defending British amateur champion, won with eight birdies by a whopping 10 strokes, setting the record for the widest margin in tournament history. The South African fired rounds of 65-70-68 to end the week 13-under. Lee Byungho and Aaron Pounds finished T-2 on 3 under, Eric Lee was fourth on 1 under and Preston Stout was fifth on even par.
“Yeah, it was a great week, I really enjoyed it,” Potgieter said of his Junior Invitational debut and win. “Today was a good lap. I was struggling for a stretch, the fourth par 5 missed a five foot or something for a birdie and then missed one in a five. So that was a pretty disappointing break, but I knew the back nine had a lot of chances and with three par fives still to play I still felt confident enough to put a good result on the board.
“I always go back to what Tiger Woods said, you don’t come to a tournament not to win. I came to somehow prepare for the Masters and winning here just gives me more confidence,” added Potgieter. “I think this course is quite similar to Augusta National so I’ll take that as a learning curve for this course and if I play like this week I think I’ll do pretty well.”
Potgieter was pleasantly surprised that the rest of the boys’ field struggled to score every day this week while he was underperforming.
“Most of the guys were just kind of mad at me for hitting 50 yards past everyone,” he said jokingly and laughing, “so I guess that makes the golf course a little bit easier to carry and get all the bunkers still in the game.” “
As a British amateur champion, Potgieter has secured a spot in the field for the 2023 Masters and will join Davis at the Augusta National in two weeks time.
Anna Davis and Aldrich Potgieter lead the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, where no lane is safe
With Augusta National in mind, Aldrich Potgieter and Anna Davis take on the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley early on
The participants of the Sage Valley Junior Invitational dropped bombs with PGA Tour pro Tom Kim into the night
Source : sports.yahoo.com