2019 will mark the 7th Annual Gator Invitational to be hosted at The Country Club of Jackson, in Jackson, Mississippi.
The Gator began in 2013, and continued through 2017, as a regional scale event consisting of both a High School team competition as well as an individual competition. Select High School teams from Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia were invited, as well as selected individuals from this region. During this time, The Gator was widely considered one of the top High School Team events in the southeastern United States.
This period saw Braden Thornberry (Ole Miss), currently the #1 ranked Amateur in the world, win back-to-back Gator titles in 2014-2015. Braden accomplished these beating players such as fellow collegiate All-American Hayden Buckley (Missouri), recent Freshman All-Stars Turk Petit (Clemson), Andy Ogletree (Georgia Tech), Wilson Furr (Alabama) and Cecil Wegener (Ole Miss), as well as Simms Abney (Alabama), Michael Sass (Charleston), Hal Dove (Auburn) and Beau Briggs (Ole Miss).
With Braden moving on to begin a stellar All-American collegiate career, Cecil Wegener stepped on to the winner’s podium in 2016, again besting an outstanding field led by runner-up Petit, fellow SEC golfers Griffin Agent (MS State), Charlie Miller (Ole Miss), Hayden White (LSU), Davis Thompson (Georgia) and Jack Gnam (Ole Miss).
2017 saw Wilson Furr, competing on his home course in his 4th Gator Invitational, finally walk away with a victory. At the time, 2017 was easily the strongest Gator field to date, featuring the aforementioned Petit, Thompson, Wegener, Miller, White and Gnam, along with current (and future) SEC competitors Benjamin Nelson (MS State), Luke Zieman (Vanderbilt), Cooper Sears (Vanderbilt), CJ Easley (Auburn) and Cohen Trolio (LSU). All total, more than 30 players in the 87 players field either currently or will soon play collegiate golf.
In 2018, The Gator made a transition from a combination high school team/Individual competition, to an elite individual junior invitational. With the seeds sewn in the previous 5 years, The Gator was set to take the event to the next level.
With a limited field of 60 players in 2018, The Gator boasted a field chock full of future collegiate golfers—with nearly 40 of the 60 players signed or committed to continue their golf at the next level. Additionally, The Gator saw its georgraphical reach expand far outside its historical southeastern footprint to include an international field of players from 18 states and 6 different countries. The Gator had truly become a major event.
Frankie Capan, who is currently competing as a True Freshman at Alabama, and finished 2018 as the #1 ranked Junior on Junior Golf Scoreboard, won a rain shortened event in a playoff over Auburn signee C.J. Easley. Also battling Capan down the stretch were Trenton Johnson (MTSU), Austin Coggin (Auburn), Jay Kirchdorfer (Kentucky), Ethan Hagood (UAB), Prescott Butler (Alabama), Alex Cobb (Chattanooga), Tyler Lipscomb (Alabama) and Trent Tipton (West Virginia)—who each tallied top 10 finishes and exemptions into this year’s event.
Frankie Capan (2018) – Frankie fired a first round 69 and birdied the 9th hole of a rain-shortened 9-hole final round to get into a playoff with Auburn signee C.J. Easley. In incredibly difficult and rainy conditions, Capan birdied the 2nd playoff hole to take home the victory.
Frankie is competing as a Freshman on the Alabama Men’s Golf Team—finishing inside the top-10 in his first career collegiate event. Frankie finished 2018 as the #1 ranked Junior according to Junior Golf Scoreboard and finished off his junior career in style this past Spring with a win at The Gator and a runner-up in the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.
Wilson Furr (2017) – Wilson used rounds of 68-70 to win over a tightly packed top of the leaderboard on his home course. Clemson Sophomore Turk Petit again finished in the Runner-Up position. Wilson became the second consecutive Country Club of Jackson Junior to win The Gator.
Wilson has begun his Sophomore season as a member of the Alabama Men’s Golf team. His Freshman season saw him play every event in the Spring in helping Alabama to the National Championship match versus host school, and eventual champion, Oklahoma State. Wilson also boasted a stellar Junior golf career—3 times being named a Rolex All-American, competing as a member of the United State’s Junior Ryder Cup team and being named a member to the prestigious Wyndham Cup.
Cecil Wegener (2016) – After coming up 1 shot short in 2015, Wegener closed the deal in 2016 firing rounds of 71-69 to scrath out a 1-shot victory over current Clemson Sophomore Turk Petit. Cecil became the first Country Club of Jackson Junior to win The Gator on his home course.
Cecil has begun his Sophomore campaign as a member of the Ole Miss Men’s Golf team. His Freshman campaign saw him take to good form in the Spring, posting 3 top-10 finishes culminating in a tie atop the leaderboard at the 2018 SEC Men’s Golf Championship. Florida’s Andy Zhang was able to beat Cecil in a playoff, but it was an impressive finish for the Freshman.
Braden Thornberry (2014-2015) – In 2014, Braden used rounds of 70-70 to finish tied atop the leaderboard with Alabama’s Wilson Furr. Braden prevailed over the hometown hero in a sudden death playoff. In 2015, Braden scorched The Country Club of Jackson with rounds of 64-66 to take home a 1 shot victory over Ole Miss’ Cecil Wegener.
Braden is currently ranked as the #1 Amateur in the world, according to WAGR. Braden is competing this fall as a Senior at Ole Miss before entering the Web.com’s Q-school at the end of the fall season. Braden has 11 collegiate titles including the 2017 NCAA Men’s Champion. He has also scored major Amateur titles at the Sunnehanna Amateur and the Jones Cup. Braden is a 2-time All-American, a Fred Haskins Award winner and the current McCormack Medal winner. Thornberry has competed as a member of the United States team in the Walker Cup and the Arnold Palmer Cup. Finally, Thornberry has competed in 5 PGA Tour events and 1 Web.com event, making 4 total cuts and placing T4 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in 2017.
Kathleen Gallagher (2013) – In The Gator’s inaugural year, Kathleen became the only female to win the Championship. As a high school team event, girls competed alongside the boys (albeit from different tees), and Kathleen shot 75-74 to take a 2-shot victory over Mississippi State’s Ross Bell.
Kathleen has begun her Senior season as a member of the LSU Women’s Golf Team, where she won the 2017 CCLA Spring Break Dual Match and has carded multiple top 10 and top 20 finishes. Kathleen is a two time Women’s State Amateur Champion in Mississippi and is daughter to former PGA player Jim Gallagher and the state of Mississippi’s all-time best amateur golfer, Cissye Gallagher.