Local Golf Notes

Ben Martin’s game matures in minor league

bspear@thestate.comOctober 6, 2013 

Ben Martin sizzled on the 2013 Web.com Tour, winning two tournaments, earning more than $500,000, placing in the top 5 in six different statistical categories and earning playing privileges on the 2013-14 PGA Tour that begins this week.

His year gets better on Dec. 14 with his marriage to Kelly Pearce in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“Everything came together perfectly,” he said the other day after a practice session as his alma mater, Clemson. “I’m 26 and going into my fourth pro year, and this is the next step in my career.”

The climb started about this time a year ago. He salvaged a poor Web.com year with a strong finish that provided full status in 2013. He posted eight top-10 finishes, racked up the second-best scoring average and earned No. 1 in the all-around statistical category. The biggest improvement: putting.

“I freed myself up mentally on the greens,” said Martin, explaining his climb from 134th to 11th in putts per greens in regulation. “You know you’re going to miss more than you make, and I just focused on making the best stroke I could.”

Putts started to fall and his confidence soared. His goal — win two tournaments — kept him motivated after he assured his 2014 PGA Tour card, and he closed the year in storybook fashion. Starting with the Raleigh tourney in late June, he finished no worse than sixth in seven of his final 11 starts. His ties for third and fourth in two of the Web.com playoff events guaranteed he would qualify for all four of the pre-Christmas PGA tournaments.

“Only about 30 of the 50 guys who came out of the Web.com playoffs with PGA cards get into the first event, so playing well then meant a lot,” Martin said.

Martin, a Greenwood native who lives in Greenville, enjoyed a stellar career at Clemson. He finished second in the 2009 U.S. Amateur and won his first mini-tour professional tournament in 2010. He advanced to the 2011 PGA Tour through the now-defunct qualifying school.

“I didn’t know what to expect then,” he said. “I didn’t know the courses, had to learn about travel and had never played so much golf in my life.”

Consequently, he “didn’t play as well as I had hoped” and dropped back to the Web.com Tour for two years.

“Like anything else, it’s a growing process and my game has progressed,” he said. “I’m a much better player now than (2011), and the experience I’ve gained over the past two years will help me a lot. I’m confident with my game and I’m glad we’re rolling right into the new schedule rather than waiting until January to start the season.”

His goals? Just like this year, he said: Play well, play consistently at a high level and win two tournaments.

That’s a lofty ambition, but he points out others have stepped from Web.com to the PGA and won in their first season. Besides, those goals worked just fine in 2013.

Hinson stars as long driver

Blythewood High senior William Hinson won three rounds in the Remax World Long Drive Championship and will be featured in the Golf Channel’s series on long driving that begins Wednesday.

Hinson, the youngest player in the field and one of two under 21, entered the championship ranked 59th, and his performance in Nevada insures he will move higher. He unleashed a career best 418-yard drive in the first round and added four more in excess of 400 yards.

The first Golf Channel show will feature Hinson in his second-place finish in a Florida tourney and the second, set for Oct. 16, will include footage from Blythewood High as well as his training and traveling as a member of the Callaway X-Hot Long Drive team.

Chip shots

Winners in the Columbia Amateur Golf Championship at Cobblestone Park: Jared Beard (A flight), Bear Miller (B flight), Les Bradstreet (C flight) and Kevin Briggs (D flight). Golfers are placed in flights according to handicap indexes. ...

After repeated construction delays, the Cliffs Communities’ Mountain Park course, a Gary Player design, opened in late September.

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