Junior Invitational aims even higher

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The inaugural Junior Invi­tational at Sage Val­ley featured PGA Tour Com­mis­sioner Tim Finchem presenting the trophy to the winner.

This year’s event started with former President George W. Bush speaking at the opening ceremony.

What’s next for the elite junior golf tournament?

“We’ve already started working on it,” Sage Valley founder Weldon Wyatt said last week.

While it might be hard to top a former president – Bush was speaking as the honorary chairman of The First Tee – the tournament has already met its primary goals: being profitable and becoming the best junior tournament, according to tournament Director Paul Simon.

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 see the benefits it brings to these First Tee players,” Simon said.

The Golf Channel will broadcast two-hour shows on the tournament May 21 and 22.

“Bringing 54 kids of that age to spend the week together is one of the most valuable things we do,” Simon said. “We don’t know the long-term effects of that yet because these kids do bond. That could be very strong in the future.”

Electrolux is in its second year of a three-year agreement as presenting sponsor, and it is interested in extending that agreement.

“A good anecdote is one of our largest distributors sent a note and said, ‘Gee, what do I have to do to get back here next year?’” said Mark Chambers, the vice president of sales for Electrolux.

Zachary Olsen, a 17-year-old from Cordova, Tenn., won Sunday with a 54-hole total of 209. The course played tougher than in 2011, but none of the players were complaining.

Most who are eligible to return are already trying to figure out how to get back to Sage Valley in 2013.

“It’s just an honor to be able to play in the first two years of this amazing tournament,” said Cody Proveaux, who is bound for Clemson in the fall and won’t be eligible. “I think this tournament is just going to keep growing and growing. I’m kind of sad I’m not going to be able to play in the next few.”


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