With their eyes on Augusta National, Aldrich Potgieter and Anna Davis take early Junior Invitational at Sage Valley leads
GRANITEVILLE, S.C. – The beauty of Sage Valley Golf Club disarms you when you step on the property.
And then you take your first swing.
The pristine course proved it’s a more than capable test of talent Thursday during the first round of the 2023 Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, where the best junior players from around the world were largely flummoxed on a nearly perfect (albeit chilly in the morning) day.
Well, not everyone.
Aldrich Potgieter put his windows down and his round on cruise control to the tune of a bogey-free, 7-under 65 in the opening round. The South African made birdie on his first four holes of the day and added three more on Nos. 6, 11 and 15 to take a commanding six-shot lead into Friday’s second round. Bryan Kim, Eric Lee, William Jennings and Preston Stout are all T-2 at 1 under.
“I hit most of the fairways, was unlucky on the last hole, it ran through the fairway just on the left side and went into a divot so didn’t really have a look for birdie there, but yeah, really solid,” said Potgieter. “Left the chip short on 17, almost holed it, and on 16, so that was really good. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
The 18-year-old is also looking forward to a trip 20 miles down the road in a few weeks to Augusta National Golf Club. As the defending British Amateur champion, Potgieter earned exemptions into both the legendary 150th Open at St. Andrews last year, as well as the Masters this year.
“(The Open) just gave me so much experience and I’m looking forward to the Masters now coming up,” he said. “I’m trying to use this week to prepare for Augusta, both have quick greens, and this golf course is so good.”
South Africa’s Aldrich Potgieter LAUNCHES the golf ball. Remember the name.
He won the 2022 Amateur Championship to qualify for the 2022 Open at St. Andrews and will play in the Masters in a few weeks. pic.twitter.com/SHWf6H9yDV
— Adam Woodard (@AdamWoodard) March 16, 2023
Potgieter has yet to make his first trip down Magnolia Lane, but he did pick the brain of two-time PGA Tour winner Tom Kim, who played Augusta National earlier this week before an appearance at Wednesday’s Nike Night at the Junior Invitational.
“The Masters is probably the biggest tournament I grew up watching on TV. Seeing that chip in from Tiger, I watch that probably five times a year on YouTube,” explained Potgieter. “To play (the Masters) at a young age is just unbelievable.”
Speaking of, on the girls side of the leaderboard, 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur champion Anna Davis leads the way after a 2-under 70 on Thursday. Davis struggled at the start after two bogeys over her first three holes but found some rhythm with four birdies over Nos. 6-10 to take a two-shot lead into Friday. Nika Ito and Andrea Revuelta are T-2 at even par.
“I was hitting it really close most of the day. I kind of had a rocky start there for a second on the front nine, but I brought it back,” said Davis of her round. “I think I was just hitting every fairway, hitting every green, putting kind of let me down a little bit today, but other than that it’s good.”
Around this time last year, the now-16-year-old from Spring Valley, California, was an underdog winner at the ANWA. These days, she’s the favorite every tournament she tees it up.
“I’ve gotten used to it, kind of knowing people know my name now, people know my face. People are gonna put pressure on you because they expect you to win these tournaments, but I just don’t really let that get to me,” said Davis. “I know all these girls are great players. I know everybody has a chance to win. The attention is nice sometimes, but yeah I think I’m alright with it.”