Azalea Invitational begins with deep field
CHARLESTON, S.C. (March 28, 2012) -- One of the best amateur events in the nation will tee off Thursday at the Country Club of Charleston.

Fittingly, the Azalea Invitational, also has one of the best fields of an early-season event year in and year out. The 2012 Azalea Invitational is no exception to that rule.

Reigning champion Cheng-Tsung Pan will not be there to defend his title but a talented group of hopefuls will take the tee shortly before 8 a.m. ET.

Nathan Smith, the 2005 champion and owner of a storied amateur golf resume, including three U.S. Mid-Amateur championships, will aim for title No. 2 at the Azalea. Smith's last win came at the 2011 Sunnehanna Amateur and he's currently ranked 25th in the United States and 53rd in the world, according to the amateurgolf.com player rankings.

Manav Shah, a Bakersfield, Calif. native, will also take aim at what could be a marquee win. He's coming in hot, having finished second at the Jones Cup Invitational earlier this year. Ranked 93rd in the world, Shah had to sit out the year after transferring from San Diego to UCLA. A win at the Azalea would mean time well spent on his year off.

Rhys Enoch of Wales, the 27th-ranked player in the world, will also be looking for a marquee victory. He finished tied for second at last year's St. Andrew's Links Trophy and fourth at the Welsh Open Amateur. This year, he has a 12th-place finish at the Jones Cup Invitational to his credit.

Perhaps the biggest name on the leaderboard, however, will be Tony Romo - -- the Dallas Cowboys quarterback. A terrific golfer, Romo recently played alongside Tiger Woods at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. While Romo may not necessarily be the favorite, his presence should add quite a bit to the buzz around the Country Club of Charleston.

Other top players include Sean Kelly and Kevin Marsh, among others.

Amateurgolf.com will be posting scores and round-by-round recaps as soon as they are available.

Results: Azalea Invitational
1SCMatt NeSmithNorth Augusta, SC100072-66-66-66--270
2NYJim LiuSmithtown, NY70065-72-68-68--273
3TNKeith MitchellChattanooga, TN50070-69-70-65--274
T4KYBrad WilderFort Wright, KY50064-70-71-70--275
T4NYMike MillerBrewster, NY50068-69-69-69--275

View full results for Azalea Invitational

ABOUT THE Azalea Invitational

72 hole stroke play with a 54 hole cut on a 1925 Seth Raynor design. Good mix of college players, juniors and mid amateurs. 7 spots available in a qualifier. Impressive list of past champions at this traditional event. Reigning USGA champs often use this tournament as a tune-up for the Masters.

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