GRANITEVILLE — At his home golf course in central Florida, Sam Horsfield plays from extra-long tee boxes nicknamed the “adios tees.”
They were built for the teen in late 2012 because he had picked up so much length with his driver that the course was becoming too short for him.
Adios is what Horsfield has been saying to most of the elite field in the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club for two days.
Horsfield, who led by one shot after Round 1, is up by two going into today’s final round, which will start early because of the threat of bad weather. Split tees will be used, with the final group going off each side at 9:20 a.m.
Horsfield, a transplanted Brit who has lived in Davenport, Fla., since he was 4 years old, is at 5-under-par 139 after rounds of 68-71.
Norway’s Kristoffer Ventura, who is 8-under for his past 29 holes, is two shots back after rounds of 71-70.
Seven players, including Robby Shelton, of Wilmer, Ala., are tied for third place, three back. Shelton, who is the American Junior Golf Association’s No. 1-ranked player, had 68 on Saturday, the low round of the day.
Greyson Sigg, the lone Augustan to qualify for the 54-player event, has shot 71-72 and is tied for 10th place, four back.
All eyes will be on Horsfield, who has 11 birdies through 36 holes and is trying to become the youngest – and the first internationally-born – winner here.
Horsfield is a 16-year-old high school sophomore. Both previous winners of this event were at least 17 years old.
The “adios tees” at Horsfield’s home course in Davenport – Highlands Reserve – were built to add some length to the front nine of the public course.
According to Highlands Reserve director of golf Matt Jones, more than 200 yards were added in November to the front nine, which now measures nearly 3,900 yards.
The work was done by Horsfield’s father, Tony, and a friend.
“They did it all and it didn’t cost us anything,” said Jones, who is following Horsfield this week. “The water is from the home owner’s association so it was really a no-brainer and to help the kid out, why not do it?”
And why are they called the “adios tees”?
“One of our friends gave it that nickname because it’s (Spanish) for goodbye and those tees are way out there. They are not fun,” said Smith, who said Horsfield and a couple mini-tour players are the only ones who use them. Jones played with Horsfield last week when he shot 60 from those tees.
“They’ve definitely helped me with the long irons,” said Horsfield, who now hits “5 or 6 iron” on No. 1 at Highlands Reserve instead of a flip wedge, he said.
“In the last six to eight months I’ve gained a lot of distance (off the tee),” Horsfield said. “That course was pretty short. Then you come to Sage and its almost 7,500 yards and your long irons get used a lot.”
Horsfield, who has won more than 100 junior tournaments since he started competing at age 6, isn’t lacking in confidence going into today’s finale.
“Yeah, I’m pretty good,” Horsfield said when asked what kind of frontrunner he is.
Ventura, who is the final group with Horsfield, welcomes the challenge of trying to catch the leader.
“I like it; I’m the one that has to chase,” he said. “I hoped I’d be playing with him because I want to I know what’s going on.”