Isaiah Jackson

Isaiah Jackson receives a sponsor exemption into the Tour’s Wichita Open for winning the Patriot All-America Invitational at The Wigwam. (Photo courtesy Patriot All-America Invitational)

University of Memphis junior Isaiah Jackson shot a final round even-par 70 to win the Patriot All-America Invitational presented by the Valley Toyota Dealers at The Wigwam in Litchfield Park in December.

Jackson’s five-under par 205 (67-68-70) was three shots better than second- place finishers Alex Scott from Grand Valley State University (68-67-73-208) and Quade Cummins from the University of Oklahoma (70-66-72-208).

“Honestly, throughout the day, I had no idea where I was at on the leaderboard,” Jackson said. “I just tried to stick to my game plan, stay within myself, continue hitting good shots and making putts and that was pretty much it. Coming off 18, everybody started clapping when I hit the par putt, so I just assumed I had won, you know. I didn’t know I was in the lead by three, so it feels pretty good.”

Jackson explained the wedges were working for him.

“This whole week, my wedge control out of the rough and out of the fairway, regardless of where I was at, was just tremendous,” Jackson said. “The distance to the hole, different flights, different spin controls, I mean everything was just perfect this week with my wedges.”

Jackson, the wire-to-wire leader of the tournament and a native of Golden, Mississippi, played in honor of his great-grandfather, U.S. Army Pfc. Willie B. McGill. McGill was killed in combat action on December 4, 1944. With his Patriot All-America victory, Jackson receives a sponsor exemption into the Tour’s Wichita Open played June 20 to June 23 at Crestview Country Club in Wichita, Kansas.

“To know I had my great-grandfather on the bag, it’s just very special,” he said. “And, to know that I’ll be playing in a Web event is awesome. I’m ecstatic about that. That’s going to be unreal being able to compete with the guys, hopefully I’ll be competing within the next year and to see where I stand amongst pros or trying to make it. That’s pretty awesome.”

Under rainy and cold conditions with temperatures hovering around 43 degrees, UCLA senior Jack Ireland shot a tournament record-low round of seven-under 63. Ireland started the day 12 shots behind the leaders in 51st position. His round of 63 included 8 birdies and one bogey and was five shots better than the second-best round of the day (Alex Schaake from the University of Iowa). The final round scoring average was 75.

“I was very cold,” Jackson said. “I just tried to stay warm, tried to stay dry. I used my rain gloves for a little bit to keep my normal gloves dry. It’s just mental toughness, just staying down and kept sticking to the game plan.

“My hands actually went numb for about four holes on the front nine. I couldn’t really feel anything, I mean I could feel the wind hitting them. As I’d get them warm, I’d hit a shot and then go back numb, so that was pretty difficult. But the weather got a little bit better and my hands warmed up eventually.”

Now in its eight year, the Patriot All-America Invitational features participants playing in honor of a fallen or severely injured soldier by carrying a golf bag bearing the name of that soldier. Before the tournament, participants receive a card with the soldier’s story, so they can familiarize themselves with that person, what they represented and how they were killed or wounded in action. The Patriot All-America has been honoring fallen or severely wounded soldiers in this unique way since the event’s inception in 2011 and it continues to have a deep impact on the young golfers.

The Patriot All-America Invitational features a field of 84 Ping All-America golfers from all three NCAA Divisions, NAIA and NJCAA rankings as well as from U.S. military academies and universities outside the United States. The Patriot All-America is a collaboration between the Arizona Golf Association, JDM Partners, The West Valley Mavericks and the Golf Coaches Association of America in partnership with the Folds of Honor Foundation. The Thunderbirds, hosts of the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, volunteer at and support the event.

Patriot All-America alumni now playing on the PGA TOUR include three-time major winner Brooks Koepka (2011 Patriot participant); Justin Thomas (2011); Daniel Berger (2012); Bryson DeChambeau (2013); and Cameron Champ, the 2016 Patriot All-America Invitational champion.