Once again some of the state’s top amateur golfers will invade Greenwood next weekend.
They will be here for the 71st Greenwood Country Club Invitational, one of the oldest three-day golf tournaments in Mississippi. The event starts Friday and concludes Sunday.
“I would say we have about 10 golfers who are capable of making it out of a tough field like this,” said GCC Invitational committee member Robert Pannell. “We are excited for sure because the golf course is in fabulous shape. (Course superintendent Scott Hampton) has done a great job; it should be a fun weekend with some really good golf.”
Josh Lampley, 36, will be back to defend his title. The Gulfport golfer took out defending champion Joel Myrick by two shots last year after they started the final round tied atop the leaderboard.
“This is a great course and great tournament. It’s by far the most fun one of the year. We stay at The Alluvian and enjoy the whole Delta experience,” said Lampley, a two-time Mississippi Mid Amateur champion.
The two-horse race in 2018 took a big turn on the par-4 15th hole when Lampley made birdie from about two feet, and Myrick failed to get up and down from the left side of the green.
Both golfers made birdie at the par-5 16th, and then Lampley slightly opened the door for Myrick with a bogey from behind the 17th green — leaving Lampley with a two-shot cushion heading into the final hole.
Both players made birdie at the par-5 18th as Lampley claimed his second GCC Invitational crown in the last three years.
Myrick finished at even-par 72 with five bogeys on the day. He only had two bogeys in the opening round when he carded a sizzling 62.
Myrick, a former Southern Miss player, will also be playing again at GCC.
Greenwood’s Alan Ellis, a two-time Invitational champ (2014, 2010), is looking forward to making a run at No. 3.
“The golf course will be the best we have had it in years. We have another strong field. I look for some of the same names to be on the leaderboard,” Ellis said. “Hopefully a few of us locals will be in the hunt come Sunday.”
Ellis and Michael Naaman could have a say-so in the outcome in the final round. Both have been playing well leading up to the event, and another local to watch is Austin Wilkey, a streaky player with great length off the tee.
Naaman had the best overall finish (73-68-77) of any GCC members a year ago — finishing tied for 18th.
Trey Denton, a second team Pac-10 All-Academic in 2006-2007 at Arizona, placed fifth in this year’s Mississippi State Amateur championship at 4-under.
He was nine shots back of winner Joseph Deraney of Belden. Myrick finished tied for seventh at 3-under.
Deraney, a former Mississippi State golfer, signed up for the Invitational on Friday. He shot a spectacular final-round 65 to capture the 2018 Canadian Men’s Mid-Amateur title.
Other big names competing for the GCC Invitational are Steve Wilson, a former US Mid-Amateur champion; Billy Brozovich, 2009 GCC Invitational champ; Easton Key, a former Arkansas State player and current Delta State golf coach; Scott Rhodes of Madison; and Ben Snow, a former USM golfer who always plays well here.
Wilson took fourth last year at GCC (69-72-69). Rhodes was sixth at 3-under.
Pannell considers Deraney the odds-on favorite, with Lampley, Myrick and Denton right behind the former Bulldog.