GRANITEVILLE, SC – The beauty of Sage Valley Golf Club disarms you when you set foot on the property.
And then you take your first swing.
The impeccable course proved to be a more than capable test of talent on Thursday during the first round of the 2023 Junior Invitational in Sage Valley, where the best junior players from around the world were left largely baffled on a near-perfect (albeit cold by the morning). .
Well, not all.
Aldrich Potgieter rolled down the windows and put his round on cruise control on pace for a bogey-free 65-under in round one. The South African birdied his first four holes of the day and added three more at numbers 6, 11 and 15 to take a commanding six-shot lead going into the second round on Friday. Bryan Kim, Eric Lee, William Jennings and Preston Stout are all T-2 at 1-under.
“I hit most of the fairways, I was unlucky on the last hole, it went through the fairway just on the left hand side and went into a hole, so I didn’t really look for a birdie there, but yeah, really solid,” he said. Potgieter. “I got short on 17, almost holed it out, and on 16, so it was really good. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
The 18-year-old is also looking forward to a 20-mile road trip in a few weeks to Augusta National Golf Club. As the reigning British amateur champion, Potgieter earned exemptions in both the legendary 150he Opened at St. Andrews last year, as well as the Masters this year.
“(The Open) gave me a lot of experience and I’m looking forward to the Masters now,” he said. “I’m trying to use this week to get ready for Augusta, they both have fast greens and this golf course is very good.”
Potgieter has yet to make his first trip down Magnolia Lane, but he chose the brains of two-time PGA Tour winner Tom Kim, who played at the Augusta National earlier this week before an appearance on Wednesday’s Nike Night at the Junior Invitational.
“The Masters is probably the biggest tournament I grew up watching on TV. Seeing that Tiger chip, I see it probably five times a year on YouTube,” Potgieter explained. “Playing (the Masters) at a young age is just amazing.”
Speaking of, on the women’s 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 early after two bogeys on her first three holes, but she found some rhythm with four birdies over the numbers 6-10 to take a two-shot lead into Friday. Nika Ito and Andrea Revuelta are T-2 at par.
“I was hitting it very close most of the day. I had a rough start there by a second on the front nine, but I got it back,” Davis said of his run. “I think he was just hitting every fairway, hitting every green, he disappointed me a little bit today, but other than that, he’s good.”
Around this time last year, the 16-year-old from Spring Valley, California was an underdog winner in ANWA. These days, she is the favorite in every tournament she plays in.
“I’ve gotten used to that, knowing that people now know my name, people know my face. People are going to put pressure on you because they expect you to win these tournaments, but I don’t really let that get to me,” Davis said. “I know all these girls are great players. I know that everyone has a chance to win. The attention is nice sometimes, but yeah, I think I’m fine with that.”
The story originally appeared on GolfWeek