The annual Dogwood Invitational returns to Druid Hills GC with an earlier date this year, with the 2019 tournament scheduled for June 5-8, several weeks earlier than its usual pre July 4th dates.
The change moves the Dogwood away from conflicts with other national amateur events, and sets it as the first major amateur tournament of the season following the conclusion of the NCAA Championship last week.
The annual Southeastern Amateur at the Country Club of Columbus will follow the Dogwood by a week (June 12-15), and will be one of four national amateur events that week, including two long-running events in the Northeast.
The field for the 2019 Dogwood features a particularly strong home state flavor, with significant representations from the golf teams at Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern, all of whom competed in the recent NCAAs. There are also a number of college golfers from Georgia who attend schools outside the state, along with some of Georgia’s top high school golfers who are headed to college in the fall.
The Dogwood field includes three starters from both Georgia and Georgia Tech along with other members of the teams, and four of Georgia Southern’s starters. Among the Eagles competing is Steven Fisk of McDonough, who finished as the individual runner-up in last week’s NCAA Championship and was a first team All-America selection. Fisk, who has completed his college career in Statesboro, tied for third in the 2017 Dogwood.
Also in the field are three of Fisk’s Georgia Southern teammates – Ben Carr of Columbus, Jake Maples of McDonough and Brett Barron, who played in high school at state power Lambert in Forsyth County.
Georgia Tech and Georgia both will be represented by players who have contended in the Dogwood in recent years – UGA’s Spencer Ralston of Gainesville and Tech’s Luke Schniederjans of Powder Springs. Ollie Schniederjans, Luke’s older brother, placed second in the 2013 Dogwood while he was a member of the Georgia Tech golf team, and is currently playing on the PGA Tour along with teammate Anders Albertson, who was second in the 2010 Dogwood.
Georgia starters Davis Thompson of St. Simons Island and Will Kahlstorf of Watkinsville are also in the field, along with teammates Will Chandler of Atlanta, John Hilliard Catanzaro and Nicolas Cassidy, who joined the team in the spring after an outstanding prep career at Johns Creek, where he was part of multiple state championship teams.
Noah Norton and Connor Howe joined Schniederjans in Georgia Tech’s starting five this season, and will be playing at Druid Hills GC along with Gainesville’s Bartley Forrester and Dacula’s Luka Karaulic, who were both redshirted as freshmen. Andy Mao, who led Johns Creek to a recent state championship, will join the Yellow Jackets this fall and compete against former teammate Cassidy throughout their college careers.
Two other prominent incoming college freshmen in the field are Clemson signee Carter Pendley of Dalton, and Furman signee Sam Lape of Atlanta. Lape helped lead Westminster to a recent state title, and will join former high school teammate Keller Harper, who is also in the Dogwood field, on the roster at Furman.
Kennesaw State’s lone representative is Jake Fendt, a high school teammate of Barron’s at Lambert. Fendt tied for sixth in last year’s Dogwood along with Schniederjans. Also in the field is Georgia College golfer Austin Mancilla of Sugar Hill.
- of Virginia golfer Ashton Poole, who won last year’s Dogwood by one shot over ACC rival Chandler Eaton of Duke, will be back to defend his title, and will be joined in the field by another former champion – Duluth’s Charles Huntzinger, the 2016 winner. Huntzinger, who recently completed his college career at Penn State, also recorded a top-10 finish in the 2017 Dogwood as the defending champion.
Eaton, who is from Alpharetta, turned in a strong performance in the recent NCAA Championship and will look to again challenge in the Dogwood after his near miss last year.
Marietta’s Jonathan Keppler, a member of the Florida State golf team, will have a busy week, beginning with a 36-hole U.S. Open Sectional qualifier Monday at Hawk’s Ridge in Ball Ground. Keppler recently played his way into a Web.com Tour tournament in Knoxville as a Monday qualifier.
Also in the Dogwood field are Roswell’s JonErik Alford (Ohio State), Peachtree City’s Jake Milanowski (Auburn), St. Simons’ Thomas Hogan (Mississippi), Atlanta’s Alex Ross (Davidson) and Alpharetta’s Steffen Smith (Gardner Webb).
Georgia golfers have a history of playing well in the Dogwood, which dates back to 1941 and was revived in 1994 after an absence of more than 20 years. Allen Doyle of LaGrange won in ’94 shortly before turning pro in his late 40s and going on to an outstanding career on the Champions Tour.
Other Dogwood winners included former UGA teammates Hudson Swafford (2008) and Savannah’s Brian Harman (2009). Swafford finished just ahead of teammate Harris English, Georgia Tech’s Carlton Forrester of Gainesville and Atlanta area mid-amateur Mark Strickland, who all tied for second in ’08. Harman led a 1-2-3 Bulldog sweep the next year, with Macon’s Russell Henley second and Atlanta’s Adam Mitchell third.
Mercer’s Trey Rule, a Lake Oconee area resident, won the Dogwood in 2014, but has not enjoyed the professional success of some of the state’s high profile college players over the past 15 years.
UGA’s Brendon Todd and Georgia Tech’s Roberto Castro of Alpharetta were third and fourth in 2003, beginning a long string of top finishes by state collegiate golfers in the Dogwood. Woodstock’s Chris Kirk, Todd’s teammate on Georgia’s 2005 NCAA Championship team, tied for second in 2005 and was fourth in ’07 behind fellow PGA Tour winner Webb Simpson, who placed fourth or better three straight years in the Dogwood.
The top 10 in the 2011 Dogwood included future major champions Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas, with the tournament’s list of former players including sizeable numbers of college golfers who played at colleges in the Southeast and went on to success as pros.
Spectators attending the Dogwood can expect a lot of low scores, with the winning total for 72 holes typically ranging from the high teens to low 20s under par. Druid Hills measures a modest 6,860 yards from the back tees, and includes a trio of easily reachable par 5s and three par 4s in the 350-yard range.
With a few exceptions, the fairways are on the generous side, with most of the venerable layout’s challenge found on and around the outstanding putting surfaces, which are smooth and quick. Even the longer par 4s on the course are driver/short iron for most of the long-hitting college golfers in the field, with most of the hazards that are in play for Druid Hills’ members little concern for most of the players entered in the tournament.