NAPLES, FL (April 13, 2016) – For the 21st time, the Terra Cotta Invitational will be playing host to “Amateur Golf at the Highest Level” as it welcomes a field of 74 to the Naples National Golf Club. Once more, a strong field will descend upon Naples, FL, in hopes of winning one of The Majors of Amateur Golf. The 54-hole tournament will begin Friday morning and come to a close on Sunday afternoon.
Naples National Golf Club, the host course of the Terra Cotta, is a par 72 layout that can be stretched to 7,045 yards. Speaking with tournament director Denny Glass over the phone earlier this week Glass said the course is, “in great shape and it will be a wonderful test of golf.” Contestants should expect little rough and quick rolling greens.
The weather for the weekend looks favorable for the players with mainly sunny sky’s and temperatures in the mid to upper 80’s. The only exception is Saturday when thunderstorms could roll in during the afternoon hours.
Last year, the Terra Cotta saw a record setting performance from Jorge Garcia who shot an impressive 14-under-par to win by 10. Garcia won in runaway fashion over second place finisher Davis Riley at 4-under-par. The previous year, Riley won the event and shot the same 4-under-par score that saw him finish 10 behind last year.
Garcia, now a freshman at Florida, will not be back to defend his title. The SEC Championships are to be played this weekend. However, there will be few a Gator players on hand for this year’s event, freshman Blake Dyer, sophomore Ryan Delano and senior Richard Donegan.
This year’s field will feature many of the top junior players from around the world and also a strong group of mid-amateur and senior players. Headlining the field will be Florida commit Andy Zhang fresh off his win at the Azalea Invitational, another Major of Amateur Golf and Zhang from China who blew away the field at Charleston Country Club finishing 15-under-par to win by six.
Koichiro Ishika and S.M. Lee are among the other headline junior players in the event. Ishika of Kakogowa, Japan will be entering the Terra Cotta after a strong performance at the Azalea Invitational where he finished T16. He also was in the final 32 of last years Japan Amateur. In the fall of 2017 Ishika will be heading to Washington to begin his collegiate career.
S.M. Lee of Buford, GA has committed to Minnesota to play college golf and will make his trek up north this coming fall. Last year Lee was victorious at the Georgia Junior Championship winning by eight strokes at 16-under-par. His 54-hole score of 200 broke the previous record of 201 set in 2009 by Scott Wolfes.
The top mid-amateur in the field will be Joe Alfieri of Lutz, FL. Alfieri, a former Web.com Tour player, who began competing on the Tour in 2002 and appeared regularly from 2005-2007. Last year Alfieri showed well in the Florida Mid-Amateur championship finishing T5. 2016 got off to a strong start for the Florida resident thanks to a fifth place finish at the New Year's Invitational. This will be Alfieri’s third appearance in the Terra Cotta and he will be gunning for his first top 5 finish. In his first go around in 2014, he placed sixth, while last year it was a T13.
This year’s field also includes a strong senior group that features two past winners, Gene Elliot and Tommy Brennan. Elliot (West Des Moines, IA) the winner in 1998 will be appearing in the field for the 17th time. Since his first appearance and win in 1998 Elliot has missed the event only two times and not since 2003. Elliot’s best finish in a ranking event so far this year is a T13 at the Gasparilla Invitational. His best finish in a ranking event last year was T2 in the Stocker Cup.
2005 Terra Cotta winner Tommy Brennan (Covington, LA) will be making his 11th overall appearance and first since 2013 when he tees it up on Friday. 2015 was a banner year for Brennan as he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open barely missing the cut. The 2016 campaign for Brennan is off to a good start as he has already tallied a T3 at the Gasparilla Senior and a T13 at the Gasparilla Invitational.
Another senior to keep an eye on is Tim Jackson (Germantown, TN) making his 16th appearance. Jackson, a two-time Walker Cup member, has been in the field every year since 2000 with the exception of 2004 and will be looking to improve on a T37 finish last year. Jackson picked up one ranking win in 2015, albeit a first place tie at the Birmingham National Invitational. He also finished T2 at last years George L. Coleman Senior Invitational.
Some other notable past winners of the Terra Cotta include Matt Kuchar (1997), Casey Wittenburg (2003), Peter Uihlein (2007), Bud Cauley (2008), Justin Thomas (2010) and Emiliano Grillo (2011).