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What is it?
The Jones Cup is the first amateur event on the calendar each year. Originally a biennial competition, it was hosted on odd-numbered years from 2001 to 2009. Since then, it has become an annual event. The tournament was started by A.W. Jones family, who founded the Sea Island Golf Club in 1928. The event assembles an elite field each year on a difficult golf course. Past winners of the Jones Cup are an impressive list of golfers, including four-time PGA Tour winner Justin Thomas, U.S. Ryder Cup Team member Patrick Reed, PGA Tour members John Peterson, Luke List and Kyle Stanley and most recently 2016 Fred Haskins Award winner Beau Hossler. The competition is a great chance for the players in the field to make an impression on Walker Cup captains Spider Miller (U.S.) and Craig Watson (GB&I). The 2017 edition promises another great field and a showcase of amateur golf.
The Golf Course
Since the event’s inception in 2001, the event has been held at Ocean Forest Golf Club, located in Sea Island, Georgia. The course, designed by Rees Jones, originally opened in 1995 and plays more than 7,300 yards. Ocean Forest has hosted a breadth of tournament golf in its short history, hosting the 1998 Georgia State Amateur, the 1999 Southern Amateur and the 2001 Walker Cup. “Golfweek” ranked the par-72 layout 86th in the magazine’s 2016 Top 100 Modern Courses. With a 75.2 rating and a slope of 144, the course typically has high scores in the Jones Cup, with the winner around even par.
The 2016 Jones Cup proved again that the cream rises to the top at Ocean Forest. From February 5 to 7th, 2016, the world’s best amateurs descended on Sea Island. The field’s best player, Beau Hossler, ended up with the win. The tournament was a part of Beau’s fantastic run of golf in his last year at the University of Texas, which led him to the win Fred Haskins Award, the Heisman Trophy of college golf. Through three rounds at Ocean Forest, Hossler was consistent, firing rounds of 70, 74, and 70 for a two-under 214 total. He held off fellow All-Americans Blair Hamilton of the University of Houston and Matt NeSmith of the University of South Carolina by 6 shots. After the second round, Hossler was tied with Ohio State Sophomore Will Grimmer, who famously shot 59 at Pinehurst as a junior golfer and also qualified for the 2014 U.S. Open, before Grimmer closed with a 77 to finish T4th.
Check out the video below for a visual recap.
The field for 2017 is set, and it’s time to make a few picks on who will shine in Sea Island from February 3 to 5th. The challenging conditions and tough golf course will let the better ballstrikers shine, and patience will be key. Here are a few players who have a great chance at earning the Jones Cup this weekend.
School: University of Illinois
World of Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR): 23rd
Why he could win: Hardy had a great fall season for the Illini, picking up a win at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate and three other top-five finishes. He is an outstanding ballstriker and has experience playing well on the most difficult golf courses, having made the cut at the 2015 U.S. Open.
School: Louisiana State University
Why he could win: Burns won twice for the Tigers this fall, including at the Sun Bowl All-America Golf Classic. He also played consistently, never finishing outside of the top nine.
School: Baylor University
Why he could win: Bailey picked up the first win of his career this fall at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate. His fantastic golf swing, combined with a year and a half under Baylor head coach Mike McGraw’s tutelage should lead him to success this week at Ocean Forest.
School: Ole Miss
Why he could win: Thornberry had a huge fall campaign for the Rebels, winning three times and always finishing top 10. This momentum should carry him into a strong finish at Ocean Forest.