Rising from outside the top 100 to No. 79 in strength of tournament, the Terra Cotta Invitational is eyeing a big year.
With many of the nation’s top-ranked juniors and an improved mix of highly-ranked mid-amateurs and collegiate stars, the Terra Cotta kicks off Friday from Naples National Golf Club.
Tournament director Denny Glass, who ran the highly-successful Northeast Amateur for many years, has helped lead the Terra Cotta’s growth and improvement.
“The word has gotten out about this tournament,” Glass said. “And it’s a good one at a great course.”
Defending champion Nathan Kimsey of England, who represented Great Britain and Ireland at the Walker Cup won’t be there, but a solid field will aim to join a list of past champions that include Matt Kuchar, Peter Uihlein and Justin Thomas.
Edward Figueroa of Florida Gulf Coast is fresh off a Top 10 at last weekend’s Azalea Invitational and heads the list of NCAA players in the field. He’ll be joined by Chase Koepka of South Florida.
Max Buckley, a 2012 SMU graduate, who finished 11th at the Azalea will join former North Carolina star Michael McGowan as recent graduates hoping to boost their world rankings. McGowan was third at the New Years Invitational.
The winner of the New Year’s Invitational, of course, was Sam Horsfield. He’ll lead the impressive junior field in this year’s event.
Horsfield, who burst onto the scene at a young age and impressed last year with an 11-shot win at the Florida State Amateur, recently announced his college commitment to the University of Florida. He’ll contend with many of his contemporaries at the Terra Cotta, including 2013 U.S. Junior champion and Texas commit Scottie Scheffler, Texas A&M signee Cameron Champ, Oklahoma commit Brad Dalke and Andy Zhang, who made headlines in 2012 when he became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Open.
U.S. Walker Cup team member Todd White leads the mid-amateur contingency into the Terra Cotta. White logged top 10s at last year’s Northeast Amateur and Jones Cup and was tied for 12th at the Terra Cotta in 2013. He’ll be among a solid field of mid-ams, including: former NCAA champion Nick Gilliam, Carlton Woods winner Colby Harwell, Pennsylvania’s Sean Knapp and Bobby Leopold, a rising mid-am from Rhode Island.