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The 2021 Longleaf Invitational member-guest event was 45 holes for the two-man teams at the Country Club of North Carolina this past weekend.

Will Huntley would love to capture the energy produced by the Longleaf Invitational, a specialized member-guest competition at The Country Club of North Carolina.

Huntley, who owns a residential construction company called Huntley Design Build in Southern Pines, along with Eric Kuester, is one of the founders of the four-year-old event, which caters to the members of the club in their 30s and 40s.

The Longleaf Invitational is part ‘branded’ member-guest and part CCNC recruiting tool. The two-day event began after the club’s Junior Associate Member-Guest reached the end of its lifespan.

Played on Friday and Saturday using the club’s Dogwood and Cardinal Courses, the Longleaf Invitational has “its own vibe and we wanted to make it branded and make it a premier event with high-end food and beverage and prizes,” Huntley said.

Golf began with 27 holes on Friday and ended with 18 holes on Saturday. The Friday formats were: first 9 (captains’ choice); second 9 (combined score); third 9 (modified alternate shot). On Saturday it was better ball of pair.

“It is a cool event for younger members and wives are involved in the evening activities,” said Huntley, who has been a member since 2004 and moved his family to CCNC in 2011. “It has justified itself by the amount of participation and the high demand.”

Placing the event in late October/early November in a strategic time in the busy CCNC golf calendar still maintains the intent of the Junior Associate Member-Guest, which battled weather and participation issues in August.

“It’s a really cool tournament combining four different formats and a group of guys that have formed a brotherhood over the course of a short few years,” said guest Brandon Lacroix of Roanoke, Virginia. “The roars of The Longleaf give the tournament an extra level of excitement as you find yourself competing for the win yet cheering on your fellow competitors. These are guys from various cities in the southeast that I find myself keeping in touch with and teeing it up with over the course of the year. You also get to see some pretty elite punch-out shots from the pines.”

Claude Pope, one of the 10 founding members, said it started with a smaller field, but it became so popular there is a waiting list, and the field grew from 60 to 72 players.

“I look at this event as the 55 and under crowd of younger professionals with a lot of networking with guys from Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and out of town,” said Pope, who owns a golf company called Bald Head Blues. “I looked at list for this year and I knew 28 of people playing in it. It’s like an exaggerated guys’ golf trip.

“For me, it’s great because I am with 80 like-minded folks. I do get some leads because there are guys in mortgage banking and car dealerships. I get to hang with my buds, drink, and network with potential clients.

“One of my buddies is a mortgage banker and he does loans. There are folks playing who are entrepreneurs, so he’s got some business possibilities too. But there are also dentists and a heart surgeon who really don’t have business opportunities.”

Scott DeKeyzer, a CCNC member for six years who works in medical sales, says that despite the possible networking chances “this tournament is much more about having fun. I have not followed up as a business lead, but it is a great way to network.”

Chad Day of Raleigh has been a CCNC member since 2016 but his father and grandfather were members. Day, who works in financial management and planning for Captrust, is a defending flight winner - his younger brother Wilson. Both are former N.C. State golfers, as is Huntley.

The older Day was a two-time Academic All-American for the Wolfpack and played in the 2021 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Sankety Head in Nantucket, Massachusetts. He advanced to match play but lost in the first round.

“I really go into this event as a fun event because there are so many other young professionals that I play with off and on,” Day said. “It’s hard to get younger professionals together because of their careers. It brings them to club. You meet new guys and meet their guests. It is 100 percent one of my fun weekends of the year. There are great dinners and an event for the wives. It’s natural for the connections to happen when you play golf with guys from across state and from out of state.”

2021 Results

1st Flight: Champion -- Ben Judd and William Rocchi; Runner-Up -- Scott Dekeyzer and Clint O'Hara.

2nd Flight: Champion -- Jason Lee and Bucky Brown; Runner-Up -- Owen Brisson and Jackson Sveen.

3rd Flight: Champion -- Joe Boals and Bob Boals; Runner-Up -- Jeff Burgess and Dale Hall.

4th Flight: Champion -- Gray Williams and Wilson White; Runner-Up - Jim McMillan and Judson McMillan.

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