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The 69th Azalea Invitational begins Thursday
CHARLESTON, SC (March 29, 2017) -- With April just days away that means just one thing, that golf season is about to begin in full bloom around the country and one of the events that will help kickoff the unofficial start of the season is the 69th Azalea Invitational.

Played at the 1925 Seth Raynor designed Country Club of Charleston, the Azalea Invitational welcomes many of the top junior, collegiate and mid-amateur players from around the country to the gorgeous 6,776 yard par-71 layout.

"Our signature hole is called the Redan hole and it is a par-3 with a severe false front, no water and bunkers about 12-feet deep on either side," said Tournament Director David Humphreys. "Sam Snead made a 12 there one-time and Ben Hogan said, 'It should be dynamited.' We have made it a little bit easier. A lot of players lay up on a 175 yard hole and make a four and be glad of it."

One of the players hoping to survive the challenging 11th hole is Dalles Cowboy (even if just barely) quarterback Tony Romo. The 36- year-old had stopped playing golf a couple of years ago to avoid complications with his back but this week he will teeing it up against a top- flight field.

Beginning on Thursday and running until Sunday the 72-hole event has a long history that dates back to 1946 when Frank Ford, Sr. MP won the event and then the next for that matter.

Over the years many notable players have made their mark at the Azalea Invitational and in more recent years the likes of D.J. Trahan (2002) and Webb Simpson (2004) have won the event. Last year the title went to now Florida freshman Andy Zhang by an impressive six- strokes as he finished 15-under.

So with the 2017 event fast approaching here is a look at the some of the Players to Watch this year:

PLAYERS TO WATCH
NAME ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Richard "Skip" Berkmeyer Last year Berkmeyer recored points in six AmateurGolf.com Rankings events, with his best finish being a sixth place showing at the George C. Thomas Invitational. Since 2006 Berkmeyer has made it to match play eight-times in USGA events.
Hugo Bernard Last year Bernard won the NCAA Division II Championship Individual title, Canadian Amateur and Orlando International Amateur.
Patrick Christovich A year ago Christovich placed top-10 or better in five AmateurGolf.com Ranking events. Over the course of the last three years at the Azalea Invitational Christovich has gone T3, 5th, 6th.
Joseph Deraney In 2016 Deraney had a break out year winning the Stocker Cup, Lupton Invitational, Timuquana Cup and Kentucky Mid-Amateur.
Brady Exber One of the more decorated players in the field, Exber has his year off to a good start following a win at the Summerlin Amateur. He is also a four-time winner of the Senior Azalea Invitational (2011-2014).
Jack Hall A year ago Hall earned points in 11 AmateurGolf.com Ranking events. His lone win came at the Gasparilla Senior.
Cole Hammer The first time Hammer entered the national spotlight was in 2015 when as a 15-year-old he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Hammer, who has committed to Texas, finished tied for 10th in the Azalea Invitational last year.
Scott Harvey One of the best in the country, Harvey won the George C. Thomas Invitational in 2016 and also was a medalist and runner-up at the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
Jeff Knox The winner at the Crump Cup last season, Knox is best known nationally for his appearances in the Masters as a non-competing marker.
Mike McCoy A mid-amateur member of the 2015 Walker Cup team, McCoy won the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2013.
Trent Phillips A Georgia commit, Phillips won the 2016 Palmetto Amateur and placed second at the Azalea Invitational last year as well.
Tony Romo The questions still swirl around where Romo will play next year but the longtime Dallas Cowboys QB will be teeing it up this week at the Country Club of Charleston. In his NFL career Romo has passed for 34,183 yards and 248 touchdowns.
Nathan Smith One of the top mid-amateur players in the country, Smith has won a record four U.S. Mid-Amateur championships.
Todd White The 2015 Azalea Invitational winner is back and looking to improve upon a tied for 13th showing in his title defense year.
Aden Ye Three years ago Ye moved from China to the Orlando area and he first made a name for himself by qualifying for the European Tours Volvo China Open as a 12-year-old. Now 16- years-old, Ye has committed to Florida.
ABOUT THE Azalea Invitational

72 hole stroke play with a 54 hole cut on a 1925 Seth Raynor design. Good mix of college players and mid amateurs. 7 spots available in a qualifier. Impressive list of past champions at this traditional event. The Country Club of Charleston underwent a major renovation in 2006 (the tournament took at one year hiatus) and was ready for play for the 2007 Azalea.

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