Palmer Jackson (photo by Kevin Price)
Palmer Jackson, a current standout at Notre Dame, grabbed the early lead
Friday in the first round of the Jones Cup Invitational at the Ocean Forest Golf Club.
Jackson, a junior for the Fighting Irish, posted a 6-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead
over Michael Brennan going into the second round of the tournament which is set for Saturday
along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in coastal Georgia. Brennan, a sophomore at Wake
Forest, finished his first 18 holes at 5-under 67 on the par-72 track that played 7,308 yards on
“My ability to play my shots today, especially into the wind was really good,” Jackson said. “My
distance-control was good. Some of the pins were accessible, but still tough, and you had to
have great distance-control. I was able to stick a lot of shots within eight feet and that helped.”
Two players were just two strokes back of Jackson after round one while a group of four players finished the first day three shots off Jackson’s lead pace.
The 54-hole tournament, now in its 18th year, will conclude with the final 18 holes on Sunday.
The Jones Cup is the first major tournament of the new year in amateur golf. Friday’s opening round likely had the best playing conditions the deep field of 84 players will face for any of the three rounds.
The tournament began with temperatures in the mid-70s and was played under sunny skies with relatively calm winds for the better part of the day. Clouds began to hover over the course as the afternoon wore on and the temperature fell back into the 60s with the wind also starting to gust as the round neared its completion with a thunderstorm brewing in the distance.
With overnight rain in the forecast, temperatures were expected to remain in the 50s for
Saturday and Sunday while winds are predicted to blow anywhere from 18 to 25 mph over the
final two rounds of the championship.
“It’s gonna be grinding for pretty much everyone, I think, these next couple of days,” Brennan
said when asked about possibly seeing harder conditions on the weekend. “So, it’s great to get
off to a nice start. I kinda knew birdies would be a little more gettable today than the next couple of days. But, it’s fun playing in the elements because you have to think a little more and scramble a little more.”
Jackson, who is ranked No. 52 in the world amateur rankings, started his first round on the back nine of the Ocean Forest course which finishes along the sandy shores of the ocean. He started fast, making an eagle-3 on the par-5 10th and followed that with three birdies, three pars and two bogeys to make the turn at 3-under for the day.
He reeled off three straight birdies to begin his final nine before finishing with six straight pars to also post a 33 total on his inward side for his 66 score.
“Any score in the red out here is pretty good,” Jackson said.
Jackson finished second last year at the Patriot All-America and fourth at the Sunnehanna
Brennan, currently ranked No. 20 in the world, had a more eventful day as he managed to make his way out of some tough spots while posting a 35 on the front nine to begin his day.
He made two birdies going out which were offset by a bogey. Brennan proceeded to put together an unblemished back nine as he carded four birdies and five pars including an up-and-down from well off the green on the 18th hole.
“Any number under par is pretty good,” Brennan also said. “I had a bit of a tough time driving the ball at the start of the round, but I really kind of saved myself with a few nice wedge shots and a couple of nice chips. And, then I did the same thing at the end of the round with nice up and downs on 17 and 18. I played pretty solid for the most part and saved a lot of shots.”
Brennan recently tied for second at the Southwestern Invitational. Last year, the Virginia native won four times including the Wake Forest Invitational at Pinehurst No. 2 and the Kiawah
Despite having what figures to be the best conditions for scoring in this year’s tournament on
Friday, only 22 total players finished the first day in red figures.
Nick Gabrelcik and Thomas Ponder were the two players who finished their first rounds two
back of Jackson at 4-under as both players posted a 68 score. Gabrelcik, who plays for nearby
North Florida in Jacksonville, climbed to No. 10 in the world amateur rankings after
repeating as champion last week at the Sea Best Invitational hosted by his school at TPC
Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.
The four golfers tied at 3-under after round one were Jake Hall, Kelly Chinn, Ben James and
An 8-player group was tied for ninth after shooting 2-under on Friday. Among those were Garret Barber, the 2018 tournament champion and the only player to win both the Jones Cup and Jones Cup Junior which is also hosted by Sea Island.
Also in this large grouping were Nicolas Cassidy, a University of Georgia golfer who finished
tied for second last summer in the Dogwood Invitational outside of Atlanta, and Ohio State’s
Maxwell Moldovan, who is ranked 17th in the world amateur rankings coming into the Jones
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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