The South Carolina Golf Association’s Amateur Championship unfolds for the 81st time this week at the Country Club of Spartanburg, and the tournament features a familiar theme: youth vs. experience.
“A very strong and very deep field,” said Biff Lathrop, the SCGA’s director of competition and services in looking toward the Thursday-Sunday championship.
A by-product of the SCGA’s emphasis on junior golf, college players have dominated the championship trophy since the title was captured in 1997 by Charles Warren, a Columbia native and All-American at Clemson.
The list of champions since includes PGA Tour pros Lucas Glover (Greenville/Clemson), who won the title three times; two-time winner D.J. Trahan (Mt. Pleasant/Clemson); Bill Haas (Greer/Wake Forest) and Mark Anderson (Beaufort/USC).
Over the past five years, only Lee Palms, in 2008, has broken the collegians’ stranglehold.
This year’s field of 132 includes 34 players under the age of 20, and the roster of college stars includes Thomas Bradshaw (Columbia/Clemson), who has won the Rice Planters Invitational and finished second in the North and South Amateur this summer; Brandon Truesdale (Winnsboro/Winthrop), who has qualified for the U.S. Amateur and joined college teammate Walt Todd to win the SCGA Four-Ball; and Michael Muscatell (Lake Wylie/Clemson), a U.S. Amateur qualifier.
Other college-age performers include Jordan Sease (Lexington), a recent Winthrop graduate who is coming off a second-place finish in the Columbia City championship, Caulder Moore (Isle of Palms/USC), Stephen Behr (Florence/Clemson) and Ben Fogler (Elgin/Vanderbilt).
“There are really too many outstanding players to name them all,” Lathrop said.
The “youth movement” runs deeper with Carson Young, a rising senior at Pendleton High, who comes into the tournament with three summer victories — including one in the Carolinas Amateur against a field of seasoned veterans.
That list includes Cody Proveaux of Leesville, who will enroll at Clemson this fall with a long list of junior titles on his resume; Austin Langdale of Townville, Young’s high school teammate; and Will Starke of Chapin, who will play at USC this fall.
Todd White, the SCGA’s player of the year in 2010 and the 1990 champion who recently led U.S. Amateur qualifying, headlines the cast of veterans that includes three of the top four players in the current player of the year standings: Matt Laydon (Charleston), Chris Mitchell (Columbia) and Robert Dargan (Columbia). Plus Palms will be in the field.
In addition to White and Palms, former champions in the field include Bill Smunk (1984), Bert Atkinson (1991, ’95) and Taylor Hough (1993). Austin Reeves, the 2011 champion who played at Furman, and 2010 winner Drew Ernst, who played at Coastal Carolina, have turned professional.
The Country Club of Spartanburg course, which features Donald Ross characteristics and was recently restored by Kris Spence, will play at 6,573 yards to a par of 70. The field will be cut to the low 70 and ties after 36 holes.
Sydney Legacy of Lexington led wire-to-wire to capture the CGA’s Twin States Junior Girls championship at the Country Club of Lexington with a two-round total of 143. Kelsey Badmaev of Blythewood tied for fourth. Jensen Castle of West Columbia won the Sub-Junior division. ... . Keenan Huskey of Greenville, a rising high school junior, won the CGA’s Carolinas Junior Boys title at the Country Club of South Carolina in Florence with a three-round total of 209. ... Inclement weather wiped out the final round, leaving the South Carolina-Georgia team matches in Eatonton, Ga. deadlocked at 4-4.