Local golf notes: Strong field in Palmetto Am

bspear@thestate.comMay 24, 2014 

Members of the Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken want their flagship event, the Palmetto Amateur, to rank among the world’s finest for amateur golfers, and another step toward that goal takes place the first week of June.

“This is the strongest field in the event’s 39 years,” tourney co-chairman John Roy said. “Players who play the summer (amateur) circuit are getting used to our tournament being the first.”

The decision to move the Palmetto Amateur from mid-July to early June – the week after the NCAA Division I championship – has paid dividends. One publication ranks the Aiken competition among the top 80 in the world, and, Roy said, “We’re looking to get into the top 50.”

Ninety-three spots in the 99-player field have been set, and more than 80 will seek to earn one of the remaining berths in qualifying. The 72-hole tourney is June 4-7, and the winner of the Hitchcock/Whitney Award, which goes to an individual who has made significant contributions to Aiken golf, will be announced at the players’ dinner June 3.

Todd White, who has won multiple player of the year awards from the SCGA, and played on the 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team, is a prominent entry. A high school instructor in Hilton Head, White won the 2010 Palmetto.

Nicholas Reach, a University of Georgia player, returns to defend his championship against the field that will include a pair of former AJGA players of the year – Cody Proveaux of Lexington, who plays at Clemson, and Matt NeSmith of North Augusta, who plays at South Carolina.

The nation’s top-ranked junior, Cameron Champ of Sacramento, Calif., also will compete.

“The toughest thing is going through the entries and evaluating the resumes,” Roy said. “There are so many outstanding players.”

Palmetto GC, which dates to 1892, will play in the 6,600-yard range – short by modern standards. But the bunkering and greens are tough. Palmetto pro Brooks Blackburn said, “The green complexes make the golf course. It’s long enough to get a wedge out of their hands (on par-4s), and they’re going to have to hit spinning shots with longer irons to hold the greens.”

In addition to NeSmith, USC will be represented by Will Murphy, Blaine Woodruff and Ben Dietrich. The Clemson contingent will include Proveaux, Carson Young, Miller Capps, Billy Kennerly and Austin Langdale.

Junior summer registration open

The S.C. Junior Golf Association is holding registration for its summer programs, including the Hootie & the Blowfish Junior series and the SCJGA team series.

The “Hootie” series is composed of 19 regional chapters in a weekly schedule for youths 8-18. The team series is open to players 5-14 and is an on-course developmental program that focuses on the family. Parents are involved as caddies, guides, mentors and team coaches.

Go to scjga.org or call the SCJGA office at 803-732-9311.

Chip shots

The Sonic City Women’s Championship is June 3-5 at Spring Valley CC. College of Charleston golfer Kathryn Miranda edged three-time winner Kelli Murphy for the 2013 title. ...

Katie Kirk, who plays at East Carolina, outlasted four South Carolinians to win the CGA’s Carolinas Women’s Amateur at Wachesaw Plantation in Murrells Inlet. Bailey Cocca (Myrtle Beach) and Tiffany Robbins (Fort Mill) tied for second one stroke behind, two-time champion Katie Rose Higgins (Charleston) finished fourth, and Dawn Woodard (Greer) placed fifth. ...

Daniel Stanley (Inman) advanced to U.S. sectional qualifying by capturing one of the six spots in local competition in Chapel Hill, N.C. ...

Classic Junior Golf of America will have a two-day tournament June 14-15 at Cobblestone Park. See classicjuniorgolf.com or contact pro Tony Branham at 803-714-2621 or tbranham@cobblestonesc.com.

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