Junior Invitational alumni making their mark on larger stage

By John Boyette
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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- When Tom Wyatt glanced at the final Masters Tournament leaderboard, he didn't have to look too hard to find players he personally knows.

Wyatt, the chairman of the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, saw a handful of players who have previously competed in the top-ranked junior golf event presented by Electrolux.

Matthew Fitzpatrick soared into the top 10 at Augusta National with a closing 67. Emiliano Grillo tied for 17th, while Romain Langasque and Justin Thomas tied for 39th.

"Unbelievable," Wyatt said. "It kind of shows you the youth in our event, the junior players, can compete in anything."

The world's top 54 players (18 and under) will converge on Sage Valley for the sixth annual event, a 54-hole tournament that begins Thursday. Leading this year's field is Philip Barbaree, of Shreveport, La. He finished tied for sixth at last year and also won the Paul S. Simon Character Award.

His success didn't end at Sage Valley as he went on to win the U.S. Junior Amateur, the Wyndham Cup and the Rolex Tournament of Champions as he claimed the 2015 AJGA Rolex Junior Player of the Year award.

He is also the top-ranked player in Golfweek's rankings, and nine of the top 10 players are scheduled to compete.

Twenty players in this year's field hail from outside of the U.S. Among the international competitors is Paul Chaplet, who made his Masters debut last week after winning the Latin America Amateur Championship.

While Chaplet missed the cut at Augusta National -- he was the second youngest competitor in Masters history -- he'll be in more familiar surroundings this week.

Wyatt said a lot of the players who have competed in the Junior Invitational have gone on to stellar college careers, and many are now professionals.

"I think golf's future is pretty bright," Wyatt said.

Pete Bevacqua, chief executive officer of the PGA of America, will speak at Tuesday night's banquet.

Two days of competitor-amateur events also will be held, and new for this year is the invovlement of PGA REACH. The charitable foundation of the PGA of America and the SVJI Sports Foundation will serve as co-beneficiaries of this year's tournament.

"Our goal is to raise as much as we can and donate to other charities, locally and nationally," Wyatt said. "We just want to grow it as much as we can."

This article was written by John Boyette from The Augusta Chronicle, Ga. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.