The second annual Elite Invitational junior golf tournament will come to Longleaf Golf and Family Club next weekend. The tournament brings boys and girls from across the country to compete in the three-day event.

Growing up in the game through the junior ranks all the way to some professional tours, Mason Carmel has experienced a lot of different types of golf tournaments in his lifetime.

He’s seen what players like and what would help younger golfers going forward, and now he’s a driving force behind a one-of-a-kind junior event that will have its second edition played in the area next weekend.

A former college golfer who took his shot as a professional golfer before injuries ended that endeavor, the 27-year-old Carmel has found his calling in the sport.

“About a year and a half ago, two years ago, I said, ‘I want to put on a junior golf tournament, and I’m going to take all my experiences from junior to college to professional ranks and get together with some of my good friends on tour now to put together a tournament that is ran differently and challenges the players,’” he said.

His vision created the Elite Invitational, a tournament that brings in many of the top boys and girls junior golfers across the country to compete in a three-day tournament that also raises funds for a charity. This year, the event comes to Longleaf Golf and Family Club, with the money raised being put toward the Veterans Golf Association in Pinehurst.

Play will be held next Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Longleaf.

Carmel said the charitable aspect of the event is a way to introduce the budding golfers to the mindset that many professionals have.

“Everything that we raise for this tournament we donate back on behalf of the players,” Carmel said. “At the professional level, all these guys and girls have charities. Whether they are the top player or ranked 100 in the world, they all have some charity of foundation they give back to on a week-to-week basis.”

The field of 110 golfers were handpicked by Carmel, and a majority of the field will go on to play in college. Last year, the Elite Invitational brought out more than 40 future college players to the first playing of the tournament in Hilton Head, South Carolina. This year, 39 golfers coming to Longleaf have already committed to NCAA Division-I schools.

“We drew one of the strongest fields in the country in our first year, and we have one of the strongest fields in the country again this year that will be playing in Pinehurst,” Carmel said.

Unlike many amateur events these players compete in yearly, the Elite Invitational provides a challenge on the course that rivals the depth of the field. Also unlike those larger tournament organizers, Carmel and a small handful of close volunteers are doing all the work to make the invitational move smoothly.

“We come out with a layout that’s going to challenge the players. Every hole going into the tournament week, we’re going to have five different pin positions,” Carmel said. “Last year, five or six (paces) off the side was the farthest (into the greens the pins) got.

“It’s not something they can walk in and just bomb drivers and think they can just flip wedges or short iron into the greens. They’re going to have to be accurate and they’re going to have to think their way around the golf course. That’s what it takes at the next level.”

Carmel said that his fiancee, former college golfer Anna Eddy, and his mother, have helped with the organization of the event that tees off with a player banquet Thursday night.

Carmel said he wanted to spark something new with junior golf, and the tournament welcomes a large number of the future of golf to the area with a tour-like feel.

“We’re the first to do it and we do it differently,” Carmel said. “I rope off every tee box and I bring out the first tee signs and have the big LED scoreboard for all of them.”

The Elite Invitational will be streamed live through Junior Golf Live. More information on the field and scoring from the tournament can be found at https://theeliteinvitational.org/

Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or jonathan@thepilot.com.

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