Premier event for world's best young golfers is thriving across the river

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As the Masters Tournament gets underway at the Augusta National Golf Club, at Sage Valley Golf Club we are working out the last-minute details for the fourth annual Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club.

Our tournament begins Tuesday, April 22, with a contestant-amateur event, and concludes with the final round of play Saturday, April 26.

THE JUNIOR INVITATIONAL is ranked by Golf Week magazine and considered by many others as the No. 1 junior golf tournament in the world. The quality of golf is unbelievable.

The 54 participants in this year’s tournament come from all over the world, with 35 coming from 18 U.S. states. The other 19 players are from 13 countries around the world. Including this year, a total of 33 states and 29
foreign countries have sent players.

Of the 162 players who participated the first three years, several have turned professional.

The Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club has proven itself as an International Junior Golf Tournament. Transportation, housing, food and a caddy for the week are provided. Some invitees could not afford to participate if we did not furnish these benefits. The participants are required to stay on the golf club’s campus during their stay with us. It is very beneficial for these young men, coming from varied backgrounds, to spend a week together.

The Masters will be even more exciting for me this year, because Matthew Fitzpatrick, from England – a contestant in the 2013 Junior Invitational – will be competing. Matthew finished eighth in our tournament last year. He went on to win the United States Amateur and was the top-scoring amateur in the British Open.

Winning the United States Amateur qualified Matthew to play in this year’s Masters. I knew early on, because of the quality of players who are invited to participate in the Junior Invitational, that some of them would qualify to play in the Masters. I did not know it would happen so soon.

Let’s provide a gallery for Matthew this week and wish him well in his first Masters outing.

WE ARE PROUD of what we have been able to accomplish in the first three years of this new Junior Golf Tournament. The beneficiaries of the net proceeds from the tournament are the Augusta and Aiken chapters of the First Tee. To date, these organizations have received more than $600,000.

The tournament is operated by a 501(c)(3) corporation, and contributions and sponsorships are tax-deductible. This is essential for the success of the tournament. You can help if you or your company become a volunteer or a sponsor, make a contribution or participate in the Contestant-Amateur. This event serves as the practice round for the young contestants, and
provides a fun round of golf for you and your guest. The cost to participate is $2,500 per player. At this time, we have some slots available.

Playing in this event also includes admission to the opening banquet, a Nike gift certificate, breakfast and lunch in the clubhouse and a VIP tournament badge.

The Aiken and Augusta chapters of the First Tee do an outstanding job with the young adults in our communities. These kids between the ages of 8 and 18 are taught the game of golf, but more importantly they are taught the meaning of, and must put into practice, nine core values – honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.

We also have been able to attract top-notch speakers, some working with the contestants and some providing the keynote address at the annual player’s banquet. This list includes President George W. Bush, Jack Nicklaus, Jay Haas, Bill Haas, Lucas Glover and Tim Finchem. This year, our keynote speaker will be Gary Player. Sean Foley also will be with us.

I TAKE THIS opportunity to thank our sponsors, who are committed to the future success of the Junior Invitational. I also thank our volunteers. Both the volunteers and the sponsors are essential in putting on a tournament of this magnitude.

I invite you to come out to a beautiful golf course, watch some excellent golf and support a good cause. A clubhouse badge costs only $150 for the week. Daily tickets cost only $5. I hope to see you there.

(The writer is chairman emeritus of both the Junior Invitational and the Augusta First Tee. He is the former president of Morris Communications Corp.)


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