GRANITEVILLE — While the older players in the field have their eyes set on amateur and college golf in the near future, younger players like Brad Dalke have a different thought.
Hovering around the top of the various junior golf rankings, the 16-year-old Dalke said a win this week at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley – considered a major in junior golf – could boost him to No. 1.
“It’s a goal I’ve had and I haven’t gotten it yet, but I’ve been right there,” said Dalke, who is ranked third in the Junior Golf Scoreboard, fifth in the Golfweek Junior rankings and sixth in the AJGA/Polo Golf rankings. “I feel like if I can win this tournament, I can possibly get up there and get that No. 1 position. It’ll be a goal for the next couple of years.”
Dalke is one of 54 players from around the world vying for the coveted gold jacket. First-round play begins at 9 this morning at Sage Valley Golf Club. The 54-hole event runs through Saturday.
Scottie Scheffler, who is ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek Junior rankings and AJGA/Polo Golf rankings and is second in the Junior Golf Scoreboard, goes off in the first group with Austin Connelly (No. 3 AJGA/Polo Golf, No. 4 Golfweek, No. 6 Junior Scoreboard). Scheffler graduates this year and will head to Texas in the fall, giving Class of 2015 players like Connelly, Jorge Garcia (as high as No. 2 in the AJGA/Polo Golf rankings) and Cameron Young (No. 1 in the Junior Golf Scoreboard, No. 5 in AJGA/Polo Golf) an opportunity to soon hold the top position. Class of 2016 golfers like Dalke and Andy Zhang (No. 3 Golfweek, No. 7 AJGA/Polo Golf) are also eyeing the No. 1 spot.
“To win something like this is going to move you up a good bit,” said Sam Burns, a class of 2015 member ranked as high as eighth in the Junior Golf Scoreboard.
For players graduating this year like Austen Truslow (No. 4 AJGA/Polo Golf), making a charge to become the top-ranked junior doesn’t mean as much, he said. After all, he’s transitioning to amateur events in the summer and will be enrolled at the University of Virginia in the fall.
“If there is a race, it’d be a race for nothing,” Truslow said. “Once you get in college, you’re back to being not even ranked. But we’re definitely competitive.”