The Jones Cup Invitational, the biggest early-season major amateur golf tournament, tees off on Friday at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga. The 54-hole event features a star-studded field full of highly-ranked players focused on hoisting the championship trophy come late Sunday afternoon.
Ocean Forest is ready to host the world’s top amateur golfers, and the players will be raring to go when they step onto the grounds of the exclusively private course on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean where the Walker Cup in 2001.
“We’re very excited about this year’s tournament,” said John Wade, director of golf at Ocean Forest. “It’s the 18th edition of the Jones Cup, and like years past, the field is outstanding. You never get every player you want, but we’ve got a good many of the top 100 amateurs in the world. I think we have players from 10 different countries competing. It’s going to be real good.”
A look at the field
The 84-player field includes four players currently listed in the top-25 of the Golfweek/Amateur.com World Amateur Ranking. The highest-ranked player in the field will be Ohio State standout Maxwell Moldovan
who is at No. 9. Moldovan was among a group of seven players who tied for 11th in last year’s tournament at 3-over-par and later went on to win the Southern Amateur in record-breaking fashion
Other notable players at Ocean Forest are Nick Gabrelcik
, the No. 15-ranked player who attends nearby University of North Florida and reached the semifinals at last year’s U.S. Amateur; No. 23 Ryan Hall
, who plays at South Carolina and won twice in 2021; and No. 25 Ben Carr
, who plays close by at Georgia Southern University and posted three victories last year including his Southeastern Amateur win.
Maxwell Moldovan of Ohio State
This week’s tournament also will feature several highly-ranked mid-amateur players, including reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, Stewart Hagestad
. He is looking forward to the week ahead as he gets back into tournament mode while looking toward his appearance at the Masters in April.
“I’m trying to knock the rust off and will try to be competitive,” said Hagested, currently the top-ranked player in the world among the mid-amateurs whose U.S. Mid-Am victory last October was the second in his career. “I didn’t really play after the Mid-Am last year through the end of December. I played 18 holes here and there, but it’s not like I spent four or five hours on a Saturday working on my game like I’m starting to do now.”
Hagested, also a member of last year’s victorious U.S. Walker Cup team, also didn’t play much heading into the Jones Cup last winter when he finished tied for 11th at 3-over par for the three rounds.
Related content: A Quick Nine with Stewart Hagestad
This year’s tournament will also feature three players from the top-10 last February when the Jones Cup was held just a couple of weeks ahead of the Walker Cup selections.
Among those returning again this year are Garrett Barber
, the 2018 Jones Cup champion who is the only past winner to also win the Jones Cup Junior event held at Sea Island. He finished tied for ninth last year at 2-over and was one of only four players to break par in the second round which was played in extremely cold temperatures and howling winds.
One player who wasn’t in the field last year was Canadian Garrett Rank
who is currently the No. 2-ranked player among mid-amateurs. Rank normally can’t fit this tournament into his yearly schedule because of his regular job as an NHL official. This year, though, the Jones Cup falls in the week of the NHL’s All-Star break, so Rank jumped at the chance to play this time.
“This is one of the top 10 fields in amateur golf,” said Rank, who last played in the Jones Cup in 2013 before getting hired by the NHL the following year. “When you look at the list of past winners, there are guys you watch on TV now. It’s a prestigious event. It’s hard to get invited to it.”
Rank is a two-time Canadian Mid-Am champion and also the 2019 Western Amateur champion. He won’t have high expectations for himself this week, though.
Related content: A Quick Nine with Garrett Rank
“I haven’t played since the end of September,” he said. “All the courses around home are closed because of snow. I’ve been hitting balls into a net in my garage. They look good going in the net 10 feet away. They’re usually straight for that long.
“If I have three rounds of 75, it’ll be a good week for me. It’ll be really fun just to get the competitive juices going.”
Past winners include major champions and Ryder Cup stalwarts
Past winners of the Jones Cup include current PGA Tour star Justin Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner and FedEx Cup champion, Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, and Corey Conners, who finished seventh last year at The Players Championship, tied for eighth at the Masters and tied for 15th at the British Open.
“Of the past 17 champions, 14 of them are either currently on the PGA Tour or have played on Tour,” Sea Island’s Wade noted. “Two past champions are currently on the Korn Ferry Tour. If you play in this tournament, there’s a high probability that you’ll end up playing golf on the professional level if that’s something you want to do.”
Ocean Forest ready to test the best
Once again, the field will be tested by a tough par-72 Ocean Forest course that can be as challenging as ever in early February when it can be as cold as it possibly ever gets along the Georgia coast, especially if blustery winds come ashore.
“One thing about the Jones Cup it has become known for is that the weather is going to be unpleasant at least one day,” Wade said. “We’d love for it to be perfect, but we’re playing an outdoor event in the winter. That’s just part of it.
“The golf course will be challenging, and it’s going to be set up to crown the individual playing the best that week as champion. Usually, 1- to 4-under par will win. Last year, 2-under won. The course is in fantastic condition right now. Lucas Walters, our course superintendent, and his staff have done a great job preparing for this tournament. Everything looks really plush.”
Ocean Forest and its members once again plan to treat the world’s best amateurs to some Southern hospitality, too, which is always an added attraction for the players. Another perk for the players is that the winner of the Jones Cup earns an invitation to play in the RSM Classic, the PGA Tour event hosted by the Davis Love Foundation at the Sea Island Golf Club in November.
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ABOUT THE Jones Cup
The Jones Cup is probably the biggest of the
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
This 54-hole individual stroke-play event,
in 2001, is played at Ocean Forest Golf Club.
The Rees Jones design opened in 1995 and has
the Georgia State Amateur Championship, the
Southern Amateur Championship and the 2001
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
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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