Top amateurs invade South Florida

The annual South Florida invasion by the world’s best amateur golfers begins this week.

In the next few weeks, Florida’s best, the United States’ best and the world’s best will be boosting South Florida tourism while putting on display some excellent swings in four tournaments — the Dixie Amateur, the South Beach International Amateur, the Doral-Publix Junior Classic and the Junior Orange Bowl International Championship.

The participants will mainly be junior players, many of whom worked diligently to earn a berth in these tournaments. But there are a few exceptions in which the amateurs might exceed 60 years of age. Do not look for them to win, but they will enjoy — even with their muscles aching — the experience.

If you want to see a future PGA or LPGA star while they are still college students or younger, there’s no place better to be than South Florida in December at these tournaments.

Here’s how the tournaments line up:


▪ Dates: The four-round women’s final starts Wednesday with early play at Heron Bay and Eagle Trace and the final round is at Eagle Trace on Saturday. The men’s championship, consisting of four rounds, tees off Saturday and runs through Dec. 22, with the final round at Eagle Trace. The Dixie Amateur tries to be all-inclusive with men’s, women’s and senior divisions.

▪ Site, history: If perseverance and history defines a tournament, this one wins hands down. This tournament, held in Broward County, is the oldest of the four. The event, which began in 1924, is in its 84th year of actual play. The event has been stationed at various spots, including Crandon Park in Miami-Dade during its early years.

Notable names who have played in the Dixie Amateur: Tiger Woods is the most illustrious, and he didn’t even win. He lost in the final as a 16-year-old. Other players who have competed in the event are Sergio Garcia, Doug Ford, Hal Sutton, Brandt Snedeker, Erik Compton and Bruce Fleisher. C’mon, we told you that you could see future PGA Tour stars in these events.


▪ Dates: The men’s championship (no other divisions) runs Sunday through Dec. 23.

▪ Site, history: The tournament will be played at Miami Beach Golf Club and Normandy Shores Golf Club. The first two rounds are at both courses, the final two at Miami Beach. The event has only existed for four years as it heads into its fifth. In that time period, under the direction of Jeff Hunt, it has quickly acquired the best talent of these amateur competitions. Heading into this year’s tournament, the event is the 14th-ranked amateur tournament in the world and expects to eventually climb into the top 10. The tournament has a distinct international flavor with more than 100 players from countries other than the United States competing.

Notable names who have played in the South Beach Amateur: Probably the most recognizable person to win the South Beach is Kelly Kraft in 2011, the top-ranked U.S. amateur at the time. The other four winners are Mexico’s Juan Pablo Hernandez (2012), England’s Gregory Eason (2013) and Gabriel Lench last year.


▪ Dates: The 13-under divisions run Friday and Saturday, and the 14-and-over players compete Monday through Dec. 23.

▪ Site, history: The tournament is played at Trump National Doral, and that’s a venue that can get young players supremely fired up. After all, most of the world’s best professionals will be playing there two months later in March in the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. The tournament, run by The First Tee of Miami, is famous for stressing not only golf talent but values and education to the young people competing in it.

Notable names who have played in the Doral-Publix: Rory McIlroy is the most famous. McIlroy won an age-group division when he was under 10. McIlroy calls that Doral-Publix title, “My first major.” And he has given his thanks to the tournament for that moment by donating an autographed golf bag to the First Tee of Miami.


▪ Dates: Dec. 27 through Dec. 30, with male and female divisions playing simultaneously.

▪ Site, history: This event is held at the Biltmore Golf Course. There will be nearly 700 players competing. The tournament has connections with the Orange Bowl and attracts an international field of much note, which a long time ago included Woods.

▪ Notable names who have played in the Orange Bowl: Woods, Bubba Watson, Lexi Thompson, Mark Calcavecchia, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Michelle McGann, Chris Couch and Grace Park.