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Wave of talent: Some of the best junior golfers in the world will play in next week's Wyndham Invitational

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Ben James

Ben James has won his previous two tournaments and is considered one of the favorites in the Wyndham Invitational field next week.

GREENSBORO — The American Junior Golf Association has come calling again to Sedgefield Country Club, a relationship that’s been good for all parties involved.

“This is our 20th year in Greensboro,” said Tyler Sumner, the director of rules and competition for the AJGA as well as the tournament director next week. “We don’t have a lot of tournaments with this deep history in one city, but this one is certainly special.”

The Wyndham Invitational presented by Truist, which will be played next week from Tuesday to Friday, is considered a major on the vast tournament schedule of the highly-competitive AJGA circuit. It’s past winners include many who went on to stardom on the PGA Tour

There are 94 golfers over the past 20 years who have played here as juniors and then went on after college to play on the PGA Tour. Some of those names who played here before they were shaving were Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Matthew Wolff, Cameron Tringale, Patrick Reed and Will Zalatoris.

“It’s really neat to watch these kids play and then get to the PGA Tour where they become household names,” Sumner said.

Among the past winners in their AJGA days include Brian Harman, who won twice in Greensboro, Thomas, Peter Uihlein, Billy Kennerly and Matthew NeSmith.

In this year’s tournament 10 of the top 20 ranked players will be in the field, led by Ben James, who is ranked fourth. He won the Scotty Robertson Memorial Tournament in Roanoke, Va. in May and is looking for his third win in as many tournaments.

“I don’t like to handicap the field, but Ben is playing at a high level right now,” Sumner said.

Another facet the golfers love about the tournament is that in August the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship is also played at Sedgefield. The juniors will play it just as the PGA Tour pros do with 7,143 yards on the par-70 Donald Ross layout.

Mark Brazil, the tournament director of the Wyndham Championship, said he loves what the junior tournament does as far as building relationships for when they are on the big tour.

“It’s a big part of our recruiting efforts for the Wyndham Championship and I think that’s been well documented because nearly 100 of those guys played here as juniors then reached the PGA Tour at some point,” Brazil said. “I would guess from this year’s field maybe as many as 15 to 20 will be either on the Korn Ferry or PGA tours in a few years. So it’s a big deal for us to host this and to put on a good show.”

The tournament will not be open to fans next week because of COVID-19 concerns, and only immediate family members of the golfers can be on the grounds. But for the first time since the pandemic, college coaches can now recruit in person thanks to the NCAA making that change on June 1.

“That’s huge for the college coaches and I’m sure there will be a lot of them here,” Sumner said.

Two Wake Forest commitments — Boyd Owens and Andrew McLauchlan — will arrive in Winston-Salem in the fall of 2022 and are in the field. Other commitments from state schools in the field are Michael La Sasso (N.C. State) and William Love (Duke). Also, Matthew Doyle of Madison, Conn., has signed to play at Elon.

Last year David Ford, who is heading to North Carolina to play golf, won the tournament but he’s not in the field this year. However, his twin brother, Max, who is going to Georgia, is among the favorites. Max finished 15th in last year’s tournament.

“I think David Ford right now is ranked as one of the top amateurs in the world and he won our tournament last year,” Brazil said.

James, Max Ford and Wells Williams are among the Rolex Junior All-Americans who are in the field next week.

There are four spots open that will be filled on Sunday in a qualifier at Holly Ridge Golf Course in Archdale. There are 60 golfers in that tournament including Luke Poulter, a son of Ian Poulter, a PGA Tour and European Tour star.

Also in the qualifying tournament hoping to get a spot in the tournament are several locals including Henry Andrews, Robert Gafaell and Preston Howe of Winston-Salem and Jack Boyer and Ben Jordan of Greensboro.




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