When he took over as tournament director for 2006, Denny Glass revamped the format of the Terra Cotta Invitational and widened the prospects of adding top young amateurs.
Since the switch to a 54-hole stroke-play event, the prestige of the Naples National Golf Club tournament has continued to grow, and that’s the case again this year.
Beau Hossler, the University of Texas freshman who had the lead during the U.S. Open last year, is in the field for the April 5-7 tournament, as is Andy Zhang, a 14-year-old who became the youngest ever to qualify for the Open.
Hossler is redshirting this year, and Texas coach John Fields contacted Glass.
“Coach wanted him to play, and Beau knows the event,” Glass said during Tuesday’s media day. “This only happened at the end of last week. I try to keep a few spots right at the end open, just in case something like this happens. I’d hate to say I don’t have any room.”
Chris Gold, the caddie for Zhang, has played in the Northeast Amateur, which Glass also runs up in Rhode Island, and contacted him about Zhang playing.
“After reading his credentials, of course I grabbed him,” Glass said.
The public may attend and there is no admission fee. Net proceeds benefit the Ricky King Fund and the Family Resource Center at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Six of the top seven ranked juniors — Robby Shelton, Brad Dalke, Jim Liu, Tae Wan Lee, and Cameron Champ — are entered. Shelton won the Junior Players Championship and the Junior PGA Championship last year. Liu, who tied for second last year, won the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur.
The Terra Cotta again will have a local feel, too. Community School’s Ben Balter (a Wake Forest recruit) and Ryan Celano (Florida) will be joined by teammates Jackson Stroup and Jake Marriott (both Augusta State) and CSN grad Spencer Ciesla, a freshman at Vanderbilt. The Seahawks finished second in the state tournament this year, and only Celano, who is a junior, will be back in the fall.
“It’s pretty cool,” Balter said. “It’ll be nice to play in a tournament together again — probably for the last time.”
“That’s exciting, and we’ll be able to compete against each other,” Marriott said.
“It’s also great having it right here in Naples, and to have some people around that you know, and being close to home also adds a little extra incentive,” Stroup said.
Ciesla tied for 27th at the Terra Cotta last year, and Balter and Celano were part of a tie for 50th.
The field will not have to deal with the defending champion.
Donald Constable turned professional and made it through PGA Tour Qualifying School. He also won the Coors Light Open last month in Fort Myers. 2011 champion Emiliano Grillo also turned pro after winning, and is playing on the European Tour. 1997 champion Matt Kuchar, 2003 winner Casey Wittenberg, 2007 champion Peter Uihlein and 2008 winner Bud Cauley also are playing tour golf.
Former champions Gene Elliott (1998), Tommy Brennan (2005) and Matt Ceravolo (2009) also are playing next month. There are golfers from 15 countries entered.