Organizers of the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club were strolling the grounds of another junior event in Florida last fall looking for the world’s best young golfers.
They didn’t have to look very hard.
In some cases, the golfers found them.
Golfers and parents at the Florida event recognized the Junior Invitational’s logo on the organizers’ gear – even though the Sage Valley tournament was brand new last spring – and mobbed them like rock stars.
In addition, when organizers sent out 58 invitations to young golfers around the world to play in the second Junior Invitational this April 20-22, 54 instantly agreed. The others just couldn’t make it.
The field includes 17 of the world’s top 20 golfers younger than age 19, from 18 states and 15 countries.
But that’s what comes of creating, from scratch, what Golfweek already considers the premier junior golf event in the world.
If it’s the best in the world, after only one year – and we agree it is – then there are good reasons for that.
First, Sage Valley, at nearby Graniteville, S.C., is a world-class golf course. It is simply an elegant pairing of nature and human hand, with an eye-for-detail stewardship second to none and the courtliness of a bygone era.
Second, the folks behind the tournament, such as tournament chairman Paul Simon, know what goes into a first-class production – and a little golf match up Washington Road is a pretty good role model, besides.
Third, they pull out all the stops for the golfers and their families – from sending the golfers invitations in exquisite boxes full of personalized information, to paying travel expenses to lodging the golfers together on the Sage Valley grounds and more. The tournament also raises money for The First Tee, an organization that exposes young people to the sport of golf and all the character traits it nurtures.
Several dozen First Tee golfers even will have the chance to play a practice round with the Junior Invitational golfers – an absolutely unforgettable experience, given that many of them might have otherwise never enjoyed an outing at such a world-class club.
This year, the best-in-the-world tournament may just be getting better, though. It’s being moved to a Friday-Saturday-Sunday format, rather than the Wednesday-Thursday-Friday of last year – so more golf fans can attend. Also, the event will be made into a four-hour Golf Channel special, to be aired in May and again in November.
In comparison, the inaugural event was captured by CBS for a one-hour special.
And news broke this week that former President George W. Bush, honorary chairman of The First Tee, will address the golfers as the featured Junior Invitational banquet April 18.
We couldn’t be happier for the Junior Invitational, the organizers, presenting sponsor Electrolux and all the sponsors – and, most of all, of course, for the young golfers who will enjoy a first-rate tournament and perhaps the event of their lives.
Never mind just the sport of golf: The birth of this great tournament, regarded as the best of its kind right out of the chute, should be a case study in how to do things right.
It’s the organizational equivalent of Ben Hogan’s golf swing: elegant and supremely effective.