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Two amateurs play their way into Rex Hospital Open

Alex Smalley
Contributed photo

Grant Houser and Alex Smalley won their respective divisions at Sunday's Rex Hospital Open Junior Invitational to earn a spot in next weekend's Web.com event in Raleigh.

Houser, a freshman at Campbell University, and Smalley, a junior at Wake Forest High School, will play in the Rex Hospital Open, which is scheduled to begin Thursday at Wakefield Plantation. Houser was the low college player, and Smalley was the high school division winner.

“It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m sure when I start playing some practice rounds over the next few days for the tournament, it’ll sink in,” said Houser, who shot an even-par 71 Sunday. "I’ve come and watched the Rex Open a couple times over the years, so now that I finally get the chance to compete in it, it’s pretty cool.”

Smalley finished the junior event with a 2-under 69, one stroke ahead of Archer Price.

“This opportunity means the world to me, especially since I live about 10 minutes away,” Smalley said. “It’s nice and local, so we don’t have to drive too far, and it’s going to be a great experience.”

Rex Hospital Open tournament staff decided early on to create two fields of play for this year’s tournament.

“It’s an incredible thing for the players, to have the collegiate players on one side and to have the junior players on the other side,” said Eric Murray of Tarheel Golf Foundation. “It’s so special to see these players grow up from the time they were 7 or 8 years old playing with the Tarheel Golf Foundation, and as they go through the junior ranks and on to college. They’re both really good solid players and they’re going to make an impact.”

The Web.com Tour is the path to the PGA Tour. Professional golfers travel from around the world to compete in the Rex Hospital Open, which is the Triangle’s premier charity golf event.

“It was exciting to witness today’s event,” said Carson Gilbert, tournament director for the Rex Hospital Open. “These players are the future of golf. I look forward to watching Grant and Alex play in the Open and to following the golf careers of all of this year’s Junior Invitational participants.”

For more information, visit rexhospitalopen.com.

J. Eric Eckard writes about all things golf on his second golfer blog. You also can follow him on Twitter.