The Bobby Chapman Junior Invitational has a well earned reputation as arguably the best 36 hole junior tournament in the country.
If you look at the list of contestants in this year’s tournament or any recent year you will see top-ranked junior golfers agree and want to play in the event.
“I must have had parents calling me two or three times a day to see if anyone dropped out of the tournament,” said Justin Fleming the Director of the South Carolina Junior Golf Association. “They were willing to fly across the country just to be here in case a spot opened up,” he said.
Fleming and the SCJGA help decide on the players in the field.
The Chapman has been able to develop a high standard for the championship over the years due in part to the hospitality of The Country Club of Spartanburg and the selection process to invite the top juniors in the country.
Players must have a proven record of accomplishment to receive an invitation and that criteria has resulted in a field that often includes more than a handful of top-ten juniors.
Last year the top ranked junior in the country, Karl Vilips won the Chapman before beginning his college golf career at Stanford.
This year the tournament did not include the number one player in the current Golfweek Junior Rankings, but it did have the second ranked golfer.
David Ford from Peachtree Corners, Georgia is currently the second ranked player in the national ranking.
Last summer he won the AJGA Invitational at Sedgefield by topping the 2019 AJGA Player of the year Maxwell Moldovan.
Ford opened the Chapman with a 4-under par round of 67 to share the lead with Alan Kournikova from Palm Beach, Florida.
Kuangyu Chenn from Bradenton, Florida was third, one shot behind the leaders.
In the second round Kounikova held a 1-shot lead at the turn over Ford.
After the first hole on the back-nine Kournikova’s lead had grown to 3 shots after he birdied and Ford bogeyed the 10th hole.
By the time the two leaders got to the 17th hole Kournikova still had the lead, but by only two shots.
On 17 Ford hit a 3-iron to within eagle range on the par 5 hole.
“It looked like the same shot I had in our club championship and it landed about 15 feet from the hole,” he said.
Kornikova struggled on the hole and ended up with a bogey while Ford could not convert the eagle, but his birdie putt accounted for a two-shot swing and a tie with one hole to play.
Playing three groups in front of the leaders Gordon Sargent from Birmingham finished at 4-under par 67, 6-under for the tournament and had to wait to see if it was good enough to make a playoff.
When neither Ford or Kornikova could birdie the last hole the three played number 18 again to break the tie in the playoff.
Sargent had trouble off the tee while Kournikova’s approach shot was long and his chip from the rough behind the green rolled off the other side.
Ford’s second shot landed in the front green bunker.
“I had a good lie in the bunker and I was able to spin it and get it close,” he said.
Neither Sargent or Kournikova could convert their par leaving Ford with a three-footer for the win.
“I just visualized it going in. I had rolled the ball well all day and I told myself I was the best player in the world and I was going to make it,” he said.
Like the other golfers who have won at the Chapman, Ford acknowledge the prestige and importance of adding the title to his golf resume.
“I knew I was the best player here. I’m happy to get this one. It is a big step and sets me up to finish out the year with a high ranking,” said the future North Carolina golfer.
Sargent, who is a future Vanderbilt golfer, has played in the Chapman three times and has finished as the runner-up each time.
2018 champion Jonathan Griz from Hilton Head tied for 17th to have the best finish among South Carolina golfers in the field.
The best finish for a local Spartanburg area golfer was Andrew Gregory from Boiling Springs who tied for 21st.
Complete scores are available at https://scjga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/scjga20/event/scjga2014/contest/1/leaderboard.htm