2023 Review

97th New Year’s Invitational Wrap-up

This year we have a new champion, C J Easley, a senior at the University of Mississippi, whose 8-under par 208 total gave him a wire-to -wire victory.

The tournament began Thursday, January 5th, under overcast skies which soon opened up and eliminated play that day. The tournament would be reduced to 54 holes. The next three days provided brilliant sunshine but cool breezes made the course a bit more challenging. C J Easley led the first round with 67, highlighted by an 18th hole eagle. On Saturday, he drove far right on number one, leading to a double bogey start, but recovered strongly, finishing with a second eagle on 18 for a 69 and a 136 total. University of Nebraska senior Jeremy Sisson and University of North Florida sophomore Cooper Smith followed at 138.

CJ started quickly Sunday with birdies on 2 and 5, but erratic driving the rest of the day required recovery shots around and under trees on several occasions. Still, his fellow competitors were unable to sustain charges, several players making runs then falling back with bogeys or worse. In the end, CJ’s final round of even par 72 was sufficient to preserve his advantage and his 54-hole total of 208 won by 2 shots over five players, Cooper Smith, Ty Gingerich of the University of Cincinnati, Max Johnson of Auburn University, Kent State’s Bryce Reed, who closed with 67, and Troy Vanucci, a New Jersey native.

That 210 total won the Mid-Amateur title for Troy Vanucci for the second time, as he finished 3 shots in front of Winter Haven’s Mark Dull and the 2022 Mid-Amateur winner Canadian David Lang.

The Senior Division ended Saturday, shortened to 2 rounds by Thursday’s rain, with Michael Kelley, last year’s senior runner-up, prevailing on the strength of a closing 67 after being tied the first day at 72 with defending champ Mike Barkley and Rob Cowan. Rob finished second this year, Mike third.

One last thing, January 8th was a big day for 2017 and 2018 New Year’s champ Hayden Buckley who came very close to winning the Sony Open in Hawaii. It was his third top ten finish just this season, he is establishing himself as a player to be reckoned with.

Hope those of you who came out to watch, and there was a nice crowd on Sunday, enjoyed the event. Let’s hope we get all 4 days next year and have another well-contested event we can be proud of.