Deerwood set to host JAGA Men’s Amateur

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The 61st edition of the Jacksonville Amateur Championship, conducted by the Jacksonville Area Golf Association (JAGA), gets underway July 21 at Deerwood Country Club.

Mike Smith of Ponte Vedra Beach heads into the tournament as defending champion or the 54-hole stroke play championship that is scheduled to crown its latest champion July 23.

The event was first played in 1962, as JAGA’s showcase tournament for top-tier amateur golfers. Deerwood is hosting the championship for the first time since 2013.

The championship will feature 81 players, with 15 residing outside JAGA’s Northeast Florida footprint.

All but three of the competitors will hail from the state of Florida, with Georgia and North Carolina are states also represented, as well as the country of Uruguay.

The field was increased from 78 to its current total last week due to a response to competitor interest. The event’s waiting list also grew to 20 players.

The championship features a handful of players as young as 18 years old and the oldest players will be in their 60s.

The handicap index maximum to be eligible for entry was 6.0. Fifty-four contestants registered with handicap indexes of scratch (0) or plus-figures.

Other past champions joining Smith in the field include Duke Butler IV (2009) and Davis Roche (2018).

Smith is hoping to defend his title, and his wife, Karen, is expected to give birth to their first child any day now.

Mark Spencer and John Lobb are both seeking to become the first golfer to win all three of JAGA’s premier titles, the Amateur, the Senior Amateur and the Match Play.

Other notables in the field include reigning JAGA Match Play champion Jeff Golden, University of North Florida men’s assistant golf coach Jeff Dennis and Agustin Tarigo of Montevideo, Uruguay, who is ranked 110th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

The 2022 Underwood Cup winning amateur team will also be well represented by Butler, Smith, Spencer, Chris Henderson, Kevin McDonald and Nate Mosby.

The Amateur is one of three JAGA-conducted events in which the top finishers are awarded World Amateur Golf Ranking points, along with the JAGA First Coast Amateur and the JAGA Match Play Championship.

The contestants will face a par-72 Deerwood layout that will play approximately 7,093 yards, depending on the placement of tee markers on certain holes.

The first tee time all three days will be 7:45 a.m. A cut will be made on Friday after 36 holes, with the top half of the field and ties vying for the title on Saturday.

The Jacksonville Amateur is JAGA’s second-oldest championship, behind the JAGA Senior Amateur.

Co-chairing the championship again this year are JAGA director John Milton of Jax Beach Golf Club and JAGA president Jeff Adams of TPC Sawgrass.

Milton, who turns 68 on the final day of the tournament, is wearing two hats once again as he will also be competing.

Veteran rules experts Skip Small and Duke Butler III have collaborated to take the lead on course set-up and rules.

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