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Upcoming Tournament at Country Club of Lexington

CCL will be hosting the SCGA Junior Championship on June 13-15, 2023

Article by Chris Miller, Head Golf Professional, Edited by: Alexandra Hill

Photography by Lake Murray Lifestyle

Originally published in Lake Murray Lifestyle

The South Carolina Golf Association started their Junior Championship in 1959 with Thad Vincent taking the first two titles. We are excited to announce that The Country Club of Lexington will host the major championship again on June 13-15, 2023.

Country Club of Lexington (CCL) has a long history with this event as they started hosting it in 1972 and for 27 years in a row, CCL was the home of this championship. Like the State Amateur and other championships conducted by the SCGA, the event moved to other sites across the state to provide a different venue for the players. CCL is on the rotation to have it back every 5 years and this year will be the 32nd time hosting. 

CCL shares the hosting duties with such clubs as Oldfield, Greenville Country Club, Dataw Island, Bulls Bay, Woodside Plantation, Forest Lake, Florence Country Club, Dunes Golf and Beach Club, Columbia Country Club, Orangeburg Country Club and others have joined to host the juniors. 

Charlie Rountree II and host professional; Norman Flynn, were the spearheads that really elevated the championship during the competitions at Lexington. 

Mr. Rountree was a founding member of CCL and is referred to by many as the father of junior golf in the state. His passions earned him a spot in the SCGA Hall of Fame as well as Flynn for their dedication to the youth of the day. He was a President of the SCGA as well as his son; the third, CR III, as he is affectionately known. Charlie followed in his father's footsteps with a deep passion for building junior golf programs and also earned his way into the prestigious hall with his efforts. 

A great team of volunteers has to have a leader and that was none other than Happ Lathrop. Lathrop retired after 40 years as Executive Director of the SCGA and under his leadership, junior golf programs exploded from just private club members to over 2,000 kids on the course in competitive arenas. 

Rountree, Flynn, and Lathrop used the Junior Championship to act as a catalyst for other junior golf specific programs across the state. The first is the SCGA Team Matches. The top 8 finishers of the SCGA Junior and GSGA Junior meet in head-to-head matches that started in 1976. These are now the longest-running matches in the country, with our squad a little ahead of Georgia in regards to overall record. Pete Cox (GSGA) and Charlie Rountree II (SCGA) were the captains getting these matches to the national stage they are now, along with Happ Lathrop.

One little side story that must be told: Happ had the whole team in a borrowed RV headed to the matches and he did not quite remember the clearance values of said vehicle. The air conditioner on top of the RV was quickly removed at speed with Happ driving and some teenagers getting an increase in heartbeat. 

The Rountree family donated the Rountree Cox trophy that is now hosted at the club and highlights all of the players that have participated in the past. The SC team is engraved with SC-shaped pieces of copper that actually came from the SC Statehouse during renovation! Players on the team have included: Charlie Rymer, Jonathan Byrd, Lucas Glover, Kyle Thompson, Charles Howell, Dustin Johnson, Russell Henley, Vaughn Taylor, Wesley Bryan, and many more players of great talent. 

The SCGA Junior Championship was a precursor to many more programs and events for junior golfers. There were very few junior championships in the early history of the state's tournament offerings. The Florence Junior and the Al Esposito (Charleston) were probably the only other major events happening in this arena. 

Lathrop worked with his board and both Rountrees to form the SC Junior Golf Association in 1990. A local "chapter " program was established with players playing regional events during the summer. Point leaders in each age group qualified for an All-Stars Championship where they played against players from all across the state. What started as 150 players in three chapters grew to 19 chapters and 2,200 players. The need was then emphasized for more competitive golf as a stepping stone from grassroots junior golf. More events dotted the competitive calendar with The Fall Challenge, the Players Championship, the Blade, the Tradition Four Ball (now known as the Rick Vieth 4 ball), the Caddie Classic, the Orange Jacket, the Jackie Seawell, and the Ford Picard Christmas Classic, just to name a few. 

Next came time to open the doors to more national-level events that allowed our players to play against the best and not leave the state. Doug Smith and CR III (sense a trend here?) started the Bobby Chapman Junior Invitational. Soon to follow, the SCJGA conducts the Sea Pines Junior Heritage, the Grant Bennett Florence Junior, and the Beth Daniel Junior Azalea. All events that earned their way into national recognition for strength of field. 

So the history of this one event led to the creation of a Junior Golf Association that is recognized as one of the best in the country serving all levels of play.

Come on out and watch some great golf in your own backyard!