Midlands golf notes

bspear@thestate.comNovember 3, 2012 

Martin finishes strong

Better late than never, Ben Martin salvaged his 2012 golf season in the Web.com Tour’s final two tournaments, and he heads to the second stage of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School later this month with his confidence restored in a nothing-to-lose situation.

If he plays well and eventually earns a spot on the 2013 PGA Tour after q-school’s six-round finale, great. If he falls short, he already has the next best thing locked up — full status on the 2013 Web.com.

“I had been frustrated all season by not playing the way I feel I can,” Martin, a former Clemson star, said in recounting his year that turned with his third-place finish in the next-to-last tournament. “But when it counted, when I had to perform, I did, and that makes all the difference.

“I got my confidence back, earned a place in the Web.com Tour Championship and know the worst I can do next year is play on the Web.com Tour. Q-school is not a do-or-die situation for me.”

Martin, a Greenwood native who lives in Greenville, did not have to look far to trace the source of his frustrations. He struggled with his putter and almost wasted what he called the best ball-striking year of his life.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “In 2011 (on the PGA Tour in his first year out of college), I hit the ball poorly, and the putter was the best club in the bag. In 2012, my ball-striking was outstanding, and I couldn’t make a putt.”

Indeed, with any kind of putting year, 2012 could have been spectacular. Martin finished fifth in total driving, 22nd in greens in regulation, 11th in ball-striking, fourth in scrambling — and 134th in putts.

He credits working with Charlotte-based instructor Charles Frost for his improved ball-striking, but he wonders what happened to his skill on the greens. Maybe, he said, he “tried too hard” on his putts. Finally, the magic returned at the TPC at Sawgrass’s Valley Course and he followed that third-place finish with a tie for 13th in the Tour Championship.

Heritage tickets on sale

Tickets for the 45th RBC Heritage, set for April 18-21 at Hilton Head Island, are on sale with clubhouse badge discounts offered through Dec. 17.

Packages include clubhouse badge ($150, $170 after Dec. 18), grounds badge ($150), Arnold Palmer pass ($395), daily tickets (Friday and Saturday $60, Thursday and Sunday $50 with prices increasing $10 during tournament week) and practice-round tickets ($35). Juniors 15 and under are admitted free if accompanied by a ticketed adult.

For information or to purchase tickets, call (843) 671-2448 or go online to www.rbcheritage.com.

Chip shots

The 31st Palmetto Cup Matches, which feature a team of SCGA amateurs against a squad of the South Carolina PGA Section’s club pros, will be played today and Monday at Aiken’s Palmetto Golf Club. ... Age-group winners in the SCJGA’s Cheraw Fall Challenge: Keenan Huskey (Greenville, boys’ 15-18), Reona Hirai (Summerville, girls’ 14-18), Stephen Reynolds (Greenville, boys’ 13-14), Jensen Castle (West Columbia, girls’ 11-13), Jalen Castle (West Columbia, girls’ 8-10), Dixon Flowers (Sumer, boys’ 10-12) and Zach Adams (Rock Hill, boys’ 8-9).

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