Spotlight on | Golf

Elite youth golf tournaments come to South Florida

Jeff Hunt, executive director of the South Beach International Amateur, is pictured.
Jeff Hunt, executive director of the South Beach International Amateur, is pictured.
Bill Van Smith / Special to the Miami Herald

Special to the Miami Herald

Starting this week, the best youth golfers in the world start flooding into South Florida.

Tournaments with elite golfers abound: the South Beach International Amateur, the Dixie Amateur, the Doral Publix Junior Classic and the Junior Orange Bowl.

Here’s the lineup for the coming weeks:

•  South Beach International Amateur: This tournament starting Thursday has an illustrious field and features 55 of the top-ranked 600 amateur players in the world. That includes five of the world’s top 10 and 20 players in the top 200, not to mention many of the best college players in the country.

The tournament, in only its third year, is expecting to have the 2013 edition ranked in the top 20 in the world and already has achieved “major’’ status.

“We are beyond excited about our 94 international players in the field,” executive director Jeff Hunt said.

The tournament already is the highest-ranked amateur tournament during the winter break.

Slightly more than 200 players will compete.

“The field is incredibly strong and second in the world only to the British Amateur in terms of international participation,’’ Hunt said.

Among the countries represented are England, France, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Spain and New Zealand.

In its initial year in 2011, there were 14 countries represented, and in 2012 there was participation by 23 countries. There will be 24 countries this year.

Play begins at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday at Miami Beach and Normandy Shores golf clubs on Miami Beach. After those two rounds the field will be cut to 72 and ties, with the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday at Miami Beach.

•  The Dixie Amateur: The main men’s event for the Dixie Amateur also runs this Thursday through Sunday, but the senior division already has been completed, with Doug Hanzel winning the title. The Dixie Amateur is South Florida’s longest-running amateur event, as it is in its 83rd year.

Hanzel, the reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion, closed with a 1-under-par 71 at Heron Bay to win the senior title.

The women’s portion of the tournament began Tuesday with Isabelle Lendl, the daughter of tennis legend Ivan Lendl, returning to defend her title.

The inaugural tournament was in 1924 at the Miami Golf Club, with early winners including Frank Strafaci, Earl Christianson, Frank Perpich, Al Besselink and future Masters champion Doug Ford. Later winners included Andy Bean, Bruce Fleisher, Lanny Wadkins, Nolan Henke, Len Mattice and Jesper Parnevik.

The tournament will be held at Heron Bay and Woodlands. After two rounds, the field for the Dixie will be cut to 72 individuals and ties, but in a change from previous years the remaining players will continue to compete for the Woodlands Winter Invitational Championship.

•  Doral Publix Junior Classic: This First Tee event emphasizes character and scholarship, will be contested at Trump National Doral and has the biggest field of the South Florida tournaments with some 700 contestants. It also has the youngest players of all the tournaments with two divisions — 13 and younger and 14 and older.

The 13 division started Tuesday and ends Thursday. The 14 division runs Friday through Monday.

•  Junior Orange Bowl International Championship: Biltmore Golf Course will be the host for this event, celebrating its 50th anniversary, that runs Dec. 27-30 with boys’ and girls’ divisions.

The field is extremely international, and past winners include Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson and Coral Springs’ Lexi Thompson.

That’s a fact, Jack

Why do they have red tees? Women make up 22.8 percent of all golfers. They are also convenient for men who don’t hit the ball too far — even if they would definitely refrain from admitting using them.

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