The Junior Invitational at Sage Valley drew plenty of praise from area golf fans, and deservedly so. The "major of junior golf" brings many of the world's top young golfers and the eyes of the golfing community to Aiken County.But with the creation of a new and exciting event, it's not time to forget about the more traditional events that have made the Aiken area a center for golfing excellence.One of those events was held this past weekend, when the Southern Cross Tournament came to the Palmetto Golf Club for the 28th year. The best South Carolina high school teams and individuals were on display, with 24 teams and seven individuals putting through their best efforts. The strength of the field was evident when considering that three of the participants were also part of the field at Sage Valley, which hosted the 54 top junior golfers in the world. North Augusta's own Matt NeSmith, Pelion's Cody Proveaux and this year's Southern Cross champion, Pendleton High School's Austin Langdale, were all fresh off a few trips around Sage Valley when they arrived at Palmetto.What makes the event so special, though, is not just the golf - or even the beauty of the historic Palmetto Golf Club. The reason the tournament is considered by all the coaches and players who participate to be the best high school golf tournament in the Palmetto State is the community support.Twenty four-member teams, as well as their coaches were housed in 33 private homes across the Aiken area during the tournament, something that makes the Southern Cross extremely unique, and more than 110 individuals and businesses provided financial support, as well as food and drinks, to help get the tournament off the ground. Members of Palmetto Golf Club help out with rules, scoring and other duties around the course, and young ladies from Aiken and South Aiken high schools serve as hostesses each year, providing assistance to the golfers throughout the competition.When the tournament ends, its impact doesn't. The Southern Cross Sertoma Club, which conducts the tournament each year, shares proceeds from the tournament with Camp Sertoma, the Aiken Child Advocacy Center, Aiken Hook A Kid on Golf and the Cumbee Center.The careers of the golfers don't end with the Southern Cross, either. Past winners of the tournament still playing professionally included Jonathan Byrd, Kyle Thompson, Stephen Poole, Alex Hamilton, Kevin Kisner and Ben Martin, and the latest batch of future pros may have just finished their journey around a patch of land rich in golfing history.Congratulations to all the competitors and to the tournament committee for another great year. Aiken was well-represented.
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