GRANITEVILLE — Matt NeSmith is out to prove that his fourth-place showing at last year’s Junior Invitational at Sage Valley wasn’t a fluke.
NeSmith got into the elite field thanks to a victory at the Sea Pines Junior Heritage and the withdrawal of an international player.
The North Augusta golfer posted rounds of 67-67-75 to finish in fourth place, 13 shots behind winner Nicholas Reach.
Now, NeSmith is one of the top junior golfers in the world and one of the favorites to win the second Junior Invitational, which will be held April 20-22.
“I was one of the last guys in the field and I played extremely well and it was just gratifying but it wasn’t quite satisfying,” NeSmith said. “I hope to play a lot better this year.”
Tournament chairman Paul Simon introduced the field Wednesday morning, and noted that this year’s group will feature 17 of the top 20 golfers in the world. The field includes 18 international players representing 15 countries. From the United States, players represent 18 states and come from as far away as Hawaii.
Two of the top five players in the Golfweek rankings live close to the private club. NeSmith and Cody Proveaux of Leesville, S.C., are ranked No. 3 and No. 4, according to the latest rankings. No. 1 Shun Yat Hak and No. 2 Taylor Moore also are entered, as is No. 5 Beau Hossler.
“I know a good bit of the field coming. It is absolutely wonderful,” NeSmith said. “The quality of field couldn’t be much better than last year, but I’m sure it will be.”
This year’s tournament, which is presented by Electrolux, will feature a few changes. The 54-hole tournament will begin on Friday and end on Sunday, and all competitors will be required to wear long pants.
Simon said the goals of the tournament were to raise money for The First Tee program, involve local First Tee participants, and raise money for the national organization that helps promote junior golf.
A check for $200,000 was presented to First Tee officials last year, and the Junior Invitational was ranked the No. 1 junior event by Golfweek.
“We think we had a successful year,” Simon said.
Simon said a special announcement about this year’s keynote speaker will be made at a later date. He said Nike will continue to have a strong presence, and former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover is scheduled to be the featured speaker at one of the tournament banquets.