After the conclusion of the 2011 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, Lance Ringler’s phone rang twice.
A pair of college coaches left the tournament in awe. Each one called the Golfweek assistant editor on their way home, and their conversations went like this:
“Ringler, have you heard about this Junior Invitational? Real deal.”
Golfweek listed the inaugural event as the No. 1 junior tournament (of 25 listed by the magazine) based on the strength of its 54-player field. This year’s event might successfully defend that title.
Nine of the top 10 players, according to Golfweek, are entered. The field also features 26 of the world’s 30 highest-rated players and 33 of 54 overall.
Players are invited based on certain criteria in 15 categories, including: top 30 in the Golfweek and Junior Golf Scoreboard rankings at the end of 2011, the USGA Junior Amateur champion and runner-up, Georgia and South Carolina junior champions and AJGA/Rolex Junior All-Americans (first and second teams). The list continues until the field is set.
Greyson Sigg, of Augusta, is rated 14th according to the Junior Golf Scoreboard, 25th in the American Junior Golf Association rankings and 47th in Golfweek. The defending Georgia junior champion said it’s an honor to play against the top juniors.
“People ask me what I’m playing in, and I tell them I’m playing in the No. 1 junior event there is,” said Sigg, a verbal commitment to the University of Georgia. “This is
the Masters of junior golf.”
The Junior Invitational stands out because of its on-site accomodations for players. The juniors also are given a caddie for tournament play. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem presented last year’s champion, Nicholas Reach, with the “Sage Valley Gold” jacket.
A TV special was broadcast nationally on CBS and about 8,000 tickets were sold for last year’s event.
“We accomplished a lot of good things in the first year,” tournament Chairman Paul Simon said. “That set a standard to follow in the future.”