The Joe Cheves Junior Invitational, one of the premier junior golf events in the Southeast, will look a little different this year. For the first time in its nine-year history, the tournament will be played without founder Carter Cheves, who lost a four-year battle with prostate cancer in April at age 56.
Cheves’ dedication to his Morganton, N.C., community ran deep, and included volunteer work for Relay for Life, local little league teams and high school booster clubs. Cheves founded the Joe Cheves in 2002 as president of the American Golf Association. He named the tournament after his father, Joseph Monroe Carter Cheves Sr., a former professional golfer and Carter Jr.’s predecessor as the president of the AGA (Joe Sr. went by “Joe,” or “Pro” to his friends and family). The tournament is played at Mimosa Hills in Morganton. For this year’s 10th playing of the event, Carter Jr.’s daughter Emily and wife Jan have taken over duties as co-tournament directors.
During his adult life, Carter Jr. worked as an assistant sports information director at North Carolina State, a writer for N.C. State’s “The Wolfpacker” newspaper and as president of the AGA, the senior golf organization founded by his father.
However, at age 47, Carter found his real love. “Junior golf was his calling,” says his son, also named Carter (Joseph Monroe Carter Cheves III), the head men’s golf coach at Western Carolina.
Carter Jr. created the event as a means of showcasing junior talent in North Carolina and the surrounding Southeastern states. For the final nine years of his life, Carter Jr. devoted his energy to making the tournament successful.
“It seemed like a 365-day deal,” Carter III said. “As soon as he announced the champions of that tournament, the next minute he was already thinking about how he could start working on the next one. That was just the level of dedication he had to it.”
Carter III played in one of the early Joe Cheves installments as a kid. He has been able to experience the tournament as a player and spectator. Carter III took great pride in his father’s enthusiasm for the junior players and the tribute to Joe Sr., who saw the first five years of the event before he died in 2007.
“I can just see him standing up there,” Carter III says of his father. “He was into the announcing part, the calling out of each player and how he got into the tournament and their accomplishments. He was always very emotional with it, and you could tell how much it meant to him, especially when he talked about his father.”
Joe Cheves was an accomplished player – he lost the 1978 Senior PGA Championship to the late Joe Jimenez in a playoff – and a love of golf trickles down the family tree. Carter Jr. worked in the golfing industry. Emily played golf at Appalachian State, and Carter III played two years at North Carolina State.
Carter III says his father and grandfather never pressured him to pursue the game. He thinks their laid-back attitudes actually steered him and his sister in that direction.
“It was something we enjoyed and a way for us to be together, but not something we had to do,” he said. “We would go out – my dad, my grandfather, my sister and myself – and we played golf, and that’s just how we bonded. I learned a lot from Pro and Dad.”
The Cheves family has made a lasting mark on junior golf through the annual junior tournament. In addition to top-notch competition, the tournament committee awards three college scholarships each year.
“He wanted to make the kids feel special,” Carter III said of his dad. “He made them feel like they were professionals. They were on top of the world.”
Now it’s time for Carter Jr. to feel special. He developed one of the most exciting, anticipated and enjoyable events in the junior golf community.
It’s time for one of the good guys of junior golf to relax and smile in late August. Wherever he may be.