Defending Junior Invitational champion Zachary Olsen is battle-tested

Zachary Olsen, 18, begins the defense of his Junior Invitational title today.

GRANITEVILLE — Zachary Olsen faces a mixed bag of emotions as he enters the third annual Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club.

The 18-year-old Olsen returns looking to defend his title. He said he has plenty of confidence in his game. On the flip side, he’s been badgered by the same question.

“You can literally picture yourself winning,” Olsen said. “But everybody is also asking if I’m going to repeat. So it’s a double-edged sword.”

Olsen tees off at 10:20 this morning in the opening round of the 54-hole tournament. At the tournament’s conclusion, the champion will receive the coveted gold jacket.

The 54-player field features the No. 1-ranked player in the American Junior Golf Association in Robby Shel­ton, of Wilmer, Ala.

Shelton, 17, finished tied for second in the 2012 Junior Invitational.

Brad Dalke, of McKinney, Texas, is looking to win his first Junior Invitational. Ranked second in the AJGA, Dalke tied for 16th in last year’s Junior Invitational before winning the AJGA’s HP Boys Championship at Carlton Woods in February.

“Last year, I wasn’t very confident with my game and I ended up doing all right,” Dalke said. “This year, I’m doing everything pretty well coming into this week. I’m excited to see what this weekend holds.”

The field features only one local player in Augusta’s Greyson Sigg. The Richmond Academy senior is looking to become the second Univer­sity of Georgia signee to win the Junior Invitational, two years after Nicholas Reach won the inaugural event.

Olsen, of Cordova, Tenn., said he’s battle-tested as he enters seeking to repeat. The Oklahoma State signee has already played four tournaments this year – three of them amateur events – posting a tie for third at the Terra Cotta Invitational earlier this month.

Last year, Olsen opened with consecutive rounds of 68 before closing with 73, cruising to a three-shot victory.

AT A GLANCE

WHEN: Friday-Sunday

WHERE: Sage Valley Golf Club, Graniteville

TICKETS: Tournament Patron Badges are $5 at the gate. Children 12 and under free with an adult.

WEB SITE: juniorinvitational.com

NOTE: Third annual event, presented by Electrolux, features 54 of the top amateurs from around the world.

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