Anna Davis, Aldrich Potgieter lead at Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, where no lead is safe

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. – The players at the 2023 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley are treated like royalty the minute they step on the picturesque property tucked away behind the South Carolina pines. They also have 18 king and queen-sized challenges waiting for them as soon as they put a tee in the ground.

Known as one of, if not the best junior golf tournaments in the world, this year’s Junior Invitational – which boasts a field of the top girls and boys golfers from around the world – has been a survival of the fittest test this week, and Friday’s second round at Sage Valley Golf Club was no different. The winds were high, and for the second consecutive day, the scores were as well.

First-round leaders Anna Davis and Aldrich Potgieter remain atop the leaderboard, but each has a few players within striking distance entering the final round.

Davis looks to celebrate 17th birthday with win

Davis turned 17 on Friday and celebrated by taking a five-shot lead over the field to hold a commanding lead ahead of Saturday’s finale.

“It was kind of the same thing as yesterday, I hit just about every fairway and green and then one putt or two putt and then move on to the next hole,” said Davis, who was dissatisfied with her putting on Thursday despite taking the early lead with a 2-under 70. The defending Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion was one shot better on Friday with a 3-under 69. “I just started off a little better, I didn’t have as many three putts so I just had a better start to the round.”

Nika Ito is in solo second at even par, with Fiona Xu and Andrea Revuelta T-3 at 2 over. Kati Li and Bailey Shoemaker round out the top five at 3 over.

While you may think a five-to-eight-shot advantage may be insurmountable, don’t forget what happened last year at Sage Valley, where Shoemaker lost a seven-shot lead in the final round and wound up falling short to Amalie Leth-Nissen in a playoff.

“I love to come from behind, I think that’s the best place to be. Having a lead is pretty hard, especially having a two-day lead,” explained Shoemaker, a USC commit. “I know what happened to me last year, so I’d like to turn the tables and get my own little taste of it. So hopefully, hopefully, I can do a little bit like Amalie did to me last year.

“I’ve been thinking about Sage Valley for the last three months, just hoping to get my little taste of revenge. Hopefully,I can shoot something tomorrow and just post the score and give myself a chance.”

Can anyone catch Potgieter?

Over on the boys’ side, Potgieter has a five-shot lead of his own after following a Thursday 65 with a Friday 70 to sit at 9 under, but he’s not the only player to go low this week. Connor Williams, bound for Arizona State in the fall, fired a bogey-free 5-under 67 on Friday to clip Eduardo Derbez Torres (68) for the day’s low round.

“Honestly, the first few holes I was hitting it really good, gave myself chances. I had a rough stretch off the tee from Nos. 7-10, hit a really bad drive on 10 but got a good break from a kick back in the fairway,” Williams said of his round. “From there I locked in, took it low and made a good eagle on 15, hit a really good drive and only had a 7-iron in, so that helped a lot. Closed it out well.

“You gotta give every shot your full attention because you know the next one can be just as hard,” added Williams, who has become friends with Potgieter after sharing a cottage with him this week. “I did a great job with that today. I took it one step at a time, didn’t really get ahead of myself and it worked out well.”

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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek