Jones Cup Invitational: Ralston, Fitzpatrick lead at 3 under
Spencer Ralston ( photo by Savannah Richardson)
Spencer Ralston ( photo by Savannah Richardson)

by Savannah Leigh Richardson, for

After a tough day of wind, rain and cold, two players emerged at the top of the leaderboard after Day 2 of the Jones Cup at Ocean Forest Golf Club. The early season major features one of the top fields in all of amateur golf, all looking to impress the captains of the Walker Cup teams for U.S.A. and Great Britain and Ireland.

Related: With Walker Cup looming, the Jones Cup takes on extra importance

Wake Forest golfer Alex Fitzpatrick and Georgia’s Spencer Ralston finished at 3-under through 36 holes; the pair share a one-stroke lead over the rest of the field with one round to play.

Fitzpatrick struggled on the greens today as he shot a 5-over 77 on the round, but his first-round 64 helped him maintain a portion of the lead.

“No matter which way you look at it, shooting five-over is always a little difficult to take, but there with the wind and the rain, it wasn’t too bad out there compared to what it could have been,” Fitzpatrick said. “I didn’t hole any putts. I played pretty nicely, but when you’re scrambling five or six-footers for par, and you miss those, it’s always a little difficult to try and make some birdies to catch up, so yeah, I guess I’m a little disappointed.”

Ralston also had two costly tee shots on his back-nine that caused him to bogey both of the par threes. Outside of those two holes, he said he felt like he played well.

“Conditions were tough to stay in it, but I just made two doubles on the par threes coming in on the front nine, my back nine,” Ralston said. “Those were kind of tough — just two bad swings off the tee put myself in some not so good spots. Other than that, I thought I played solid today.”

Ralston started the day on the back nine and made the turn at 1-over. He birded his 11th hole, giving himself a four-stroke lead over Fitzpatrick. Then adversity hit as Ralston went bogey-double bogey on Nos. 12 and 13. Making a 5 on the par-3 fifth (his 14th hole of the day) didn’t deter him as he earned a stroke back by making birdie on No. 6.

“Coming off bogey and double, I think the birdie was kind of huge to keep me in there,” Ralston said. “Then I had to get up and down on seven, hit a really good putt on eight, and three-putted the last. I shouldn’t have hit it where I hit it, so that was a tough position.”

Alex Fitzpatrick warming up on the range
( photo by Savannah Richardson)
Fitzpatrick started the day rough with a double-bogey on his first hole. He earned a stroke back on No. 3 but then bogeyed four and five. Fitzpatrick said it was his scrambling that caused him trouble.

“I felt like I was hitting good putts, so I think maybe an element of reading them wrong,” Fitzpatrick said. “I guess the water didn’t help with if it didn’t break or too much break— I guess that could have been the problem. I genuinely felt like I was hitting good putts, and I was misreading them, so hopefully tomorrow I can drop some more putts.”

It was a night and day difference from the first and second rounds on Ocean Forest as the weather proved to be a challenge for most of the field. After a 74.3 average score on day one, it increased to a 77.4 average on Saturday.

“It wouldn’t matter if you were from Antarctica — the conditions were tough out there today,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can’t chase birdies out there, and that I think is the annoying thing is if you have a couple of bogeys, it’s not like there’s a place where you think you can birdie the next it’s just like try and hit the middle of the greens, hit your par and walk off to the next hole.”

Texas Tech golfer Ludvig Aberg gained two strokes and sits one stroke behind the leaders in solo third place. He was one of only four golfers to shot under part on Saturday.

Last year’s winner, Davis Thompson, finished 1-over on the day and shares a two-way spot in 4th with David Ford, who shot a 74 on the round as they finish out the golfers still under par.

With only five golfers under par heading into the Jones Cup's final round and seven within three strokes of the lead, the last day could be anyone’s game. Though for the two leaders, they're both excited to be in the hunt for that trophy.

“Hopefully, it’s less windy, and I play the same golf I did the first day, give myself a chance to hole a few more putts,” Fitzpatrick said. “Who knows, it would be nice to walk away with a trophy.”

“It’s always fun to have a chance to win a golf tournament,” Ralston said. “I haven’t looked at the leaderboard, but it’s always fun to be in the hunt, and that’s why we practice. I’m looking forward to it.”

Results: Jones Cup
1SwedenLudvig AbergSweden120072-70-72=214
T2TXCole HammerHouston, TX90070-74-71=215
T2GADavis ThompsonSt. Simons, GA90070-73-72=215
T2EnglandAlex FitzpatrickEngland90064-77-74=215
5TNSpencer CrossSevierville, TN70068-76-72=216

View full results for Jones Cup


The Jones Cup is probably the biggest of the springtime amateur majors in the United States, and the reason is the venue and the strong U.S. and international field. The past champions list is littered with PGA Tour stars, including Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Luke List, Kyle Stanley, Beau Hossler and several others.

This 54-hole individual stroke-play event, inaugurated in 2001, is played at Ocean Forest Golf Club. The Rees Jones design opened in 1995 and has hosted the Georgia State Amateur Championship, the Southern Amateur Championship and the 2001 Walker Cup Match. The Jones Cup brings together many of the finest amateurs from the United States and abroad for a three-day competition.

The Jones Cup was born from a deep commitment to amateur golf by the A.W. Jones family, who founded the Cloister and Sea Island Golf Club in 1928. The Sea Island Golf Club has played host to seven USGA championships. The Jones Cup is yet another extension of the family's strong involvement in amateur golf.

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