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NOW PLAYING: Jones Cup Senior Invitational tees off on Tuesday at Sea Island
26 Feb 2023
by Kevin Price of AmateurGolf.com

see also: View results for Jones Cup Senior, Sea Island Golf Club - Seaside Course

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Rusty Strawn
Rusty Strawn

The Jones Cup Senior Invitational gets underway this week at the Sea Island Golf Club to round out the trio of tournaments that bear the name of the Jones family which is synonymous with the renowned resort on the Georgia coast.

The Jones Cup Senior will be staged on Sea Island’s Seaside course Tuesday through Thursday with a talented field that includes several highly-ranked players set to compete for one of the top championship trophies in the senior amateur game.

“This will be one of the strongest fields to date,” said Johann Emmanuel,” head professional at Sea Island. “Sea Island Golf Club was pleased to learn that the 2022 Jones Cup Senior, according to the World Amateur Golf Rankings, was the second-strongest field in senior amateur golf. It was only two points behind the U.S. Senior Amateur for the strongest field.

“This is truly a testament to how good a field the Jones Cup Senior commands and the caliber of player that plays.”

The tournament will be a 54-hole stroke-play event and will not have a cut. All amateur players 55 and older are eligible, but the Jones Cup Senior is an invitation-only event. Those receiving exemptions include all past champions in the senior and super-senior divisions and the top 15 finishers in last year’s tournament in the senior division.

One of the exempt players returning is 2022 champion Matt Sughrue who is eager to come back and play.

Sughrue, who is currently ranked 11th in the AmateurGolf.com senior rankings, enjoyed a big year last year. In addition to winning at Sea Island, he also finished as the runner-up in the Society of Seniors Spring Classic and the GolfWeek POY Classic.

The Arlington, Va., golfer also finished fourth at the Coleman Senior Invitational while tying for eighth at the British Senior Amateur and making the final 16 at the U.S. Senior Amateur.

Sughrue hasn’t played much in competition early in 2023, but he did record a fifth-place finish at the GolfWeek POY Classic played in Tampa, Fla., in January.

The defending champion has been preparing for this week’s tournament, however, which kickstarts a run of upcoming tournaments he plans to play this spring.

“I haven’t played a lot, but I’ve played enough, I think, to feel pretty good about my game,” Sughrue said. “In my mind, this is a very important tournament, the field is super strong and it’ll be a great test. I’ve definitely had my mind and sights on this tournament the last couple of months, just trying to keep my game in shape so that I can go in and have a reasonable chance to play well.”

He certainly played well at Sea Island a year ago when the Jones Cup Senior was held on the Plantation Course which hosted the Southern Amateur as well last summer. Coming into the tournament ranked 20th, Sughrue finished 54 holes at 4-under-par 212 and found himself tied on the leaderboard with Allen Peake, who was ranked third at the time.

Sughrue started the final round four shots off the lead and carded a 4-under 68 on Sea Island’s Plantation course to climb into the tie for first at the end of regulation.

In the sudden-death playoff, both Sughrue and Peake parred the first extra hole, the par-5 18th which plays around a water hazard that guards the green as well.

They then went to the 10th hole, a short par-4, where Sughrue rolled in a birdie putt for the victory.

“There are two things you have to do on the two courses there,” he said, referring to Plantation and Seaside. “You have to keep it out of the bunkers off the tee and also out of the water hazards. If you keep your ball in places you can find it, you have a chance to do well. Last year, I avoided those things, and it went well.”

The wind can also be a major factor in any tournament played on the two courses, especially the Seaside layout which plays along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Sughrue’s home course in the Virginia Beach area is similar so he knows about playing in winds off the ocean.

He also noted he has a friend with a simulator that has the two Sea Island course programmed in, so Sughrue has recently played a few rounds on both courses.

“I’ve already started getting my mental game and strategies together,” he said.

Sughrue said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure coming in as the defending champion, pointing out that last year’s results won’t factor into this year’s tournament.

“It’s really about playing well on the golf course this year,” he said.

Whoever wins will conquer a strong and deep field for sure. The field features 23 of the top 25 players in the senior rankings at the end of this past week.

Leading that list is Rusty Strawn, the No. 1-ranked senior in the country. Strawn, a resident of McDonough, Ga., won the U.S. and the Canadian Senior Amateur titles in back-to-back weeks last September.

Others set to play this week are Doug Hanzel and Bob Royak who also resides in Georgia. Hanzel, from nearby Savannah, was the runner-up at the 2022 U.S. Senior Am. He won that same tournament back in 2013. He also is a four-time Jones Cup Senior winner and is currently ranked third in U.S. senior golf.

Royak, who lives in Alpharetta, won the U.S. Senior Am in 2019 and won the Jones Cup Senior the following year. He enters the Jones Cup ranked eighth.

Peake, who is from Macon, Ga., is also set to return after finishing second last February. He is currently ranked fifth.

The only player from the current top-10 not playing at Sea Island is second-ranked Gene Elliott who has been battling recent injuries.

“These players may be seniors by age, but they can golf their ball,” Sea Island’s Emmanuel said. “It’s awesome to watch these guys play at such a high level.”

This year’s tournament will not include a Super Senior Division which was for players 65 and older. The past Super Senior champions did get an invite back, and 2022 winner John Armstrong from Frostburg, Md., is among those playing again this week.

This 12th playing of the Jones Cup Senior will be one big event with one champion at the end. All players will play from the same tees from start to finish.

“Just as the goal is for the Jones Cup and Jones Cup Junior, we are trying to identify the best player,” Emmanuel noted. “To do that, we needed to expand the senior field.” The Jones Cup Invitational was held last month at Ocean Forest on Sea Island. This year’s tournament won by University of North Carolina standout David Ford. The Jones Cup began in 2001 and served that first year as a prelude to the Walker Cup which was played at Ocean Forest later that year.

The tournament, which always attracts the top amateurs in the world, was named to honor the A.W. Jones family which founded The Cloister Hotel and the Sea Island Golf Club in 1928. The Jones family and Sea Island have long had a deep commitment to amateur golf.

The Jones Cup Junior was added as an extension of the Jones Cup event in December 2009 and annually attracts the top junior boys players in the country for a 54-hole tournament at the Sea Island Golf Club.

The Jones Cup Senior was added to complete the trio in 2012.

This year, the golfers will play a seaside course which is in prime shape for the big event.

“Dylan Stafford, the director of agronomy, and his team have been working hard preparing Seaside,” Emmanuel said. “We couldn’t be prouder of the golf course these players will play on. Mother Nature has blessed us with a mild winter and ideal rye-grass growing conditions. The TifEagle greens and tees are in beautiful shape, and the overseeded fairways and roughs are the perfect emerald green.”

AmateurGolf.com will provide daily coverage of this year’s three-round tournament.

Results: Jones Cup Senior
1GABob RoyakAlpharetta, GA120071-71-69=211
2GAJeff KnoxAugusta, GA90070-71-70=211
T3IAMike McCoyW. Des Moines, IA70070-72-70=212
T3NCSteve HarwellMooresville, NC70070-72-70=212
T3GAWilliam MitchellAtlanta, GA70069-70-73=212

View full results for Jones Cup Senior

ABOUT THE Jones Cup Senior

54-hole senior invitational event inaugurated in 2012, that follows in the footsteps of the Jones Cup, an event that unofficially kicks off the amateur circuit each year.

View Complete Tournament Information

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