The Junior Invitational will return to Sage Valley Golf Club in April for the fourth installment of the prestigious golf championship. As has been the case in the past, the big names involved with the tournament won’t be limited to the elite field of the top 54 players from around the globe.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Junior Invitational will feature a high-profile guest speaker at the opening banquet. This year’s speaker is scheduled to be Gary Player, a nine-time major tournament winner who has won the Masters Tournament three times.
Player is the latest in a growing tradition of renown speakers to address the Junior Invitational, which has the best and deepest field in all of junior golf. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem addressed the inaugural Junior Invitational in 2011, the same year Jay and Bill Haas spoke at the opening banquet. Former president George W. Bush spoke at the 2012 tournament and 18-time major winner – as well as six-time Masters champion – Jack Nicklaus spoke at last year’s opening banquet, fielding questions from the audience in a Q&A session.
The addition of Player at this year’s tournament means that all of the members of golf’s current big three have been involved with the Junior Invitational in one regard or another. Player is part of the group of honorary starters at Augusta National for the Masters, along with Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer – who’s likeness graces the trophy presented to the champion of the Junior Invitational.
The invitation-only banquet will be held on April 22, and will serve as the kick-off event of the fourth Junior Invitational. For the past three years, GolfWeek has recognized the Junior Invitational as the No. 1 one event in all of junior golf. The tournament features the top 54 junior boys in the world. This year’s Junior Invitational will be held April 24-26 at the renowned Sage Valley Golf Club in Graniteville.
Player is a South African professional golfer, widely regarded as one of the greatest in the history of the game. At the age of 29, Player won the 1965 U.S. Open to become the only non-American to win the career Grand Slam consisting of all four majors, and only the third golfer in history to achieve this significant milestone, following Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen. Since then, only Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won the coveted Grand Slam. The Black Knight has won 165 tournaments on six continents over six decades and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Nicknamed the Black Knight, Mr. Fitness, and the International Ambassador of Golf, Player is also a renowned golf course architect with more than 325 design projects on 5 continents throughout the world. He has also authored or co-written 36 golf books. In addition to his accomplishments on the golf course, The Player Foundation has raised over $50 million to benefit underprivileged children and impoverished communities across the globe.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.