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Summer major amateur season begins at the Dogwood Invitational
06 Jun 2021
by Kevin Price of AmateurGolf.com

see also: The Dogwood Invitational 2022, Druid Hills Golf Club

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Perhaps it only makes sense that the major amateur summer schedule begins in the state of Georgia, since the professional major season traditionally opens in the Peach State as well.

While the Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf Club is the first professional major each year, the Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta kicks off a busy summer at the amateur level just a week following the completion of the college season.

“In my opinion, yeah. That makes it even more exciting,” said Brandon Mancheno, who will be defending his title this week. “I know for me, it ramps up my summer schedule. I’m really looking forward to it. The golf course is great. It’s a really good field. You can’t be off your game at all. You have to score really well to win.”

The Dogwood could not be played last June due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which made for some eerily quiet days at the private course when tournament week rolled around.

Now a full year later, event staff and Druid Hills members are more than ready to host this tradition-rich invitational which dates back to 1941 and will be played for the 54th time this week.

“There’s a lot of pent-up energy,” said Ed Klein, a co-chair for the Dogwood. “It’s been well-supported by our membership. We have a lot of people looking to play. We’re going to have one of the biggest qualifiers we’ve ever had. There’s a lot of interest to play. So many kids missed having the opportunity to play last year.”

The players will find a course ready to challenge them yet reward good shots as they make their away around the par-72 track. Druid Hills is a classic layout designed in 1912 that stretches 6,947 yards from the back tees and features reachable par-5 holes that demand accuracy on the approach shots because of the green structures. “I played Saturday, and the kids who are coming are going to find the golf course to be in excellent condition,” Klein said. “It’s a great time of year with our bermuda fairways and rough and bentgrass greens.

“All the greens are in perfect condition. The putting surfaces are going to be in tournament condition. The lies in the fairways are going to be perfect. Our course superintendent Joe Hollis has done a great job with the course to have it ready.

“It’s going to be fair. A golfer playing well will have a chance to shoot a good score, and the kids have told us they like that. If they aren’t playing well, they will know it. But, we love seeing good play, and if you play well, you’re going to be rewarded.”

The tournament once again has attracted a field made up of top junior, collegiate, mid-amateur and senior players from around the country and beyond who will battle it out for a title that stands out on a resume. As many as 32 different colleges and universities will be represented with players from each of the Power-5 conferences in college golf competing in the invitational. Tournament officials are also proud to have four players representing Historically Black Colleges and Universities in this year’s field.

“It’s a very diverse field, whether you’re talking about race, age or nationalities. It’s incredibly diverse, which we are excited about,” Klein stressed.

The tournament features three past champions including Mancheno who played at Auburn when he won two years ago but has since transferred to North Florida located in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. Mancheno was one of four players two years ago to post four scores in the 60s as he shot 21-under-par 267 (69-68-65-65) for a one-shot victory.

“I played OK the first couple of rounds, didn’t get too far behind,” Mancheno said Sunday after a practice round at home before leaving for Atlanta on Monday. “The last two days, my ball-striking was great, my putting was just really good and I hit a lot of fairways.

The round of 2019, however, and indeed the history of the Dogwood Invitational, was turned in by Alex Ross of Davidson College, who shot an unbelievable 15-under 57 in the third round.

Related: Tournament Talk: Alex Ross' 57 at the Dogwood Invitational

Mancheno hasn’t played many competitive rounds in recent months since transferring to North Florida for the spring semester. He underwent some swing changes at the same time and played in only one event with the Ospreys this season.

“I may be a little rusty, but I’m expecting to play well,” he said.

The other former Dogwood winners competing again are Ashton Poole, the 2018 champion who played at Virginia and Georgia State in Atlanta, and 2014 champion Trey Rule, who played for Mercer University in Macon, Ga.

Notable international names who could contend this week are 2020 Latin America Amateur champion Abel Gallegos from Argentina who played in the 2020 Masters, and 2021 Australian Amateur winner Louis Dobbelaar from Brookwater, Australia.

Among the mid-amateurs to watch are Canadian Garrett Rank, the fourth-ranked player in the AmateurGolf.com Mid-Amateur Rankings, and Louisiana resident Derek Busby, who comes in as No. 13. Rank, a NHL hockey referee, won the 2019 Western Amateur at age 31, becoming the first mid-amateur to win this top-tier tournament in more than 20 years. Bob Royak from Alpharetta, Gla., will be playing close to home and will be one of the oldest players in the field at age 59. But, he will be someone to keep an eye on at the start of the tournament. He is currently ranked fifth among U.S. senior players and recently won the Georgia Mid-Amateur Championship in late May. Royak won the U.S. Senior Amateur in 2019 and also the Jones Cup Senior Invitational at Sea Island (Ga.) in 2020.

Those tracking the tournament should also watch for Maxwell Ford from Peachtree Corners, Ga., who will be one of the youngest players competing at Druid Hills. Ranked in the top 15 in junior golf, Ford is headed to play for the University of Georgia in the fall. He qualified for the 2019 U.S. Amateur, recorded a top-15 finish at the last two Jones Cup Invitationals at Ocean Forest on Sea Island and placed third at the 2020 Georgia Amateur held at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

A unique aspect of the Dogwood is that Druid Hills members who win the club’s premier annual events are extended invites to play in the tournament. Those events include the club championship - the top four finishers are actually offered invitations - the match-play championship and also the Dogwood Scholarship tournament, a special event formed to raise money for the invitational’s charitable givings.

The Dogwood’s long list of former champions includes current PGA Tour players such as Webb Simpson, Brian Harman and Hudson Swafford. Other past participants include stars in the game like Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson.

The tournament always partners with its sponsors to raise funds and awareness to benefit junior golf. The Georgia Junior Golf Association and the Druid Hills Golf Club Foundation are the beneficiaries each year. The Dogwood helps Georgia Junior Golf expand its programs throughout metro Atlanta while the Druid Hills Golf Club Foundation sponsors the Reynolds Scholarship which goes to qualified junior golfers to help pay for their college education.

Tournament festivities kick off Monday morning with the Open Qualifier, a last-chance 18-hole affair featuring some 90 players who will compete for the final eight spots in the field for the 72-hole tournament proper which will be Wednesday through Saturday. Practice rounds are Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday.

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ABOUT THE Dogwood Invitational

Tournament week is June 6-11 at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. The entry fee includes breakfast and lunch tournament days as well as special events.

The history of this prestigious event extends back to 1941, when legendary amateur Tommy Barnes captured his first of five Dogwood titles. Evolving with the times, the modern Dogwood has produced fine champions like Webb Simpson (’07), Brian Harman (’09), Dawson Armstrong (’15), and in 2019 Brandon Mancheno. This evolution can be seen also in our course renovations and set-up, our relaxed tournament atmosphere, and our spirit of social responsibility.

Players are required to walk during tournament play and may carry their golf bag themselves (push carts are allowed) or take a caddie. Caddies may be requested in advance during registration, or players may select one on their own.

Player housing is provided on an as available basis to players only, caddies and traveling companions are not provided housing.

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