June 28, 2014

After Pinehurst letdown, a Carolinas Open silver lining

Even at age 49 and on the brink of Champions Tour eligibility, Golden Hills pro Steve Larick really, really wanted to qualify for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

Even at age 49 and on the brink of Champions Tour eligibility, Golden Hills pro Steve Larick really, really wanted to qualify for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

Most club pros share that dream, but Larick had an additional reason. From his days working at Pinehurst, he “knows every inch about No. 2. I must have played the course 50 times.”

Alas, he fell one shot short of advancing in local qualifying on a Monday in May in Greensboro, N.C. But for a consolation prize, three days later, he hoisted the Carolinas Open championship trophy.

“We know golf gives and takes,” Larick said in reflecting on that first week in May. “I hit the ball great, but I couldn’t make a putt on Monday (in shooting 68 in the local qualifying). Then, in the second round of the Carolinas Open, I made everything.”

Larick outlasted Scott Harvey in a playoff for the Carolinas title and came away pleased with his performance under pressure. He loved the challenge of being in the hunt and thriving. He split the fairway with his drive and hit his approach to about 15 feet on all three extra holes.

Still, he can’t help but wonder what might have happened if he had made one more putt in the Open’s local qualifying and had advanced through the sectional competition. He still has length off the tee and a steady nerve on the greens.

“I worked at Pinehurst for about nine months, and I picked the range at No. 2 for about half that time,” he said. “That took about two hours of a six-hour shift, so I would jump in a cart and play holes 8-12. Then, after the last group teed off about 4:30, I would start at the first hole. I wanted go back (to play in the Open).”

He had reason for optimism. The week after the Masters, he and three Golden Hill members competed in a team tournament on restored No. 2 and finished third. Larick won low pro honors.

A native of Delaware, Larick’s family moved to North Carolina and he earned All-America honors at Elon. He moved to the Columbia area in 1988, worked at several area clubs, twice tried the Nike and Nationwide tours, sold trucks and played Mr. Mom before taking the Golden Hills job three years ago.

He has no regrets about giving up the nomadic life of pro tournament golf to settle down with wife Kim, son Joshua and daughter Lyndsey. He enjoys watching Joshua, now 16, develop his golf game.

“People ask me all the time about the Senior (Champions) Tour,” he said. “I might try to Monday Qualify for a tournament, but the sad situation is my birthday (Oct. 13) is three days too early for the (full-season) qualifying tournament.”

Meanwhile, he lives the typical club pro’s life; sometimes playing a lot and sometimes the clubs gather cobwebs. But his game is strong; the Carolinas Open trophy provides the evidence.

Chip shots Robert Dargan (Columbia) won his ninth SCGA Lefthanders championship, shooting 71-68—139 to edge Cory Tonnsen (Columbia) by one shot and Stan Rawl (Lexington) by two at Lake Marion GC. Matt Talley and Tyler Macolly (Spartanburg) posted a 129 total to edge brothers Robert and David Dargan for the Righty-Lefty-title. ... Columbian Dwight Cauthen Jr., who plays at A.C. Flora, earned a berth in the U.S. Junior Amateur by sharing second place in qualifying in Asheville, N.C. ... Bryce Howell (Blythewood/Furman) shot 6-under par 66 to lead qualifying for the CGA Carolinas at Spring Valley CC. ... Wake Forest coach Jerry Haas (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and Jim Ragland (Jacksonville, Fla.) posted 68s to earn spots in the U.S. Senior Open in qualifying at Florence CC. Steve Liebler (Irmo) shot 69 and is first alternate. ... Sawyer Mills (Easley) won the Grant Bennett Florence Junior Invitational in a playoff over Zach McLain (Gilbert) and Connor Burns (Duncan) at Florence CC.

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