GRANITEVILLE, S.C. – The 2022 Junior Invitational made history for more reason than one. In addition to hosting the first-ever girls competition, the prestigious event went to extra holes for the first time in its existence with both the girls and boys needing sudden death to determine a winner.
Amalie Leth-Nissen of Denmark punctuated a furious comeback with a birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Bailey Shoemaker (Dade City, Fla.). Shoemaker had a seven-stroke lead going into the round. On the boys side, Caleb Sarratt (Indian Trail, NC) held off a hard-charging Luke Potter (Encinitas, Calif.) to win the 11th edition of the boys event with a par on the first extra hole.
Leth-Nissen was only one of three players in the girls field to play the final round under par, shooting a 71. She made a long birdie putt on 18 to force sudden death with Shoemaker. They returned to the 18th hole and Leth-Nissen stuck her approach to a foot to clinch the victory.
“Going up 18 one shot behind, I knew I had to make birdie,” Leth-Nissen said. “My adrenaline was pumping, so it was such a relief to roll that one in. I had to commit 110 percent to every shot down the stretch, I backed off my approach shot in the playoff because I wanted to be all the way in every shot.”
Leth-Nissen and Shoemaker were followed by first-round leader Anna Davis (Spring Valley, Calif.) who finished in third at -4. Gianna Clemente (Estero, Fla.), the youngest player in the field at 13, finished in sole fourth place at -2.
Surratt, who took a two-stroke lead into the final round, came out of the gate hot with five birdies in his first eight holes. However, Potter stayed close with five birdies on his first 10 holes and finally caught Surratt on 18. Potter had trouble off the tee on the first hole of sudden death and Surratt was able to two-putt for par for the win.
“I kept telling myself that I needed to roll with the punches out there,” Surratt said. “Finishing bogey-bogey in regulation, it would have been easy to get wrapped up in that, but we did a good job of resetting. I played a different shot shape the second time on 18 and it put me in a good position to get the win.”
Ben James (Milford, Conn.) finished third, with a three-day total of -11. Nicholas Gross (Downington, Penn.) was fourth at -7.
During the closing ceremony, the Junior Invitational recognized Megha Ganne (Holmdel, NJ) and Jonathan Griz (Hilton Head, SC) with the Dr. Joe Bowden Character Award and Paul S. Simon Character Award, respectively. These awards honor a girl and boy in the field who exemplify the core values of The First Tee.
The Junior Invitational began a new era this year as the event welcomed the top junior girls for the first time in its history. 24 of the top girls joined 36 of the top boys for the 11th Junior Invitational.
Recognized by Golfweek as the No. 1 junior event in golf, the Junior Invitational welcomes 60 of the very best junior golfers from around the world to Sage Valley Golf Club in Graniteville, South Carolina, each year. Founded in 2011, it has become one of the most desired invitations in the world of competitive junior golf. For more information, visit www.juniorinvitational.com.