The victors earn the headlines, and rightly so. But there are stories to savor far from the trophy presentation, and a favorite in reviewing state golf and golfers in 2014 comes from a player who did not make the tournament’s cut.
The scene is Pinehurst No. 2 and the U.S. Open, and the player is Kevin Kisner, the Aiken pro who qualified for his first national championship. He teed off on that June Thursday less than 72 hours after wife Brittany gave birth to the couple’s first child, and he finished with his dad Steve handling the caddie chores over the final two holes.
Missing the cut disappointed Kisner, but he said, “This was a great week. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is a week I’ll never foirget”
Daughter Kate arrived Monday afternoon, and Kevin got to Pinehurst in time to play 12 holes in a Wednesday practice round before teeing off early Thursday morning. He decided if he made the cut, he would have his dad fill the caddie role on Sunday, Father’s Day.
A double bogey on the 16th hole in the second round assured he would miss the cut, and Kevin made the switch two days earlier. Reluctant at first, Steve accepted the caddie bib and clubs from regular caddie Duane Bock.
“I realized the reason he wanted me to do it, so I couldn’t turn him down,’ Steve Kisner said afterward. “Walking down the 18th fairway, I got a little choked up. It means a lot.”
Among other stories from 2014 to remember:
• Ben Martin (Greenville/Clemson) won his first PGA Tour title this fall in Las Vegas, Austin Ernst (Seneca) claimed her first LPGA Tour title in Portland, and Mi Hyang Lee – who recently moved to the Columbia area to be near instructor Puggy Blackmon – collected her first LPGA title in a tourney in Japan.
• Will Murphy (Columbia/USC) highlighted a sizzling year with victories in two prestigious amateur events, the Azaalea and Sunnehanna, to earn SCGA player of the year honors.
• Dustin Johnson (Columbia/Coastal Carolina) started the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule with dominating performances, then took a leave of absence in July.
• The Bryan Brothers, former USC stars George IV and Wesley, became overnight sensations on YouTube and other outlets with their trick-shot artistry.
• The U.S. Amateur might have been mistaken for a South Carolina tournament as 13 players with state connections qualified for the championship.
• USC’s women’s team opened the 2014-15 season in the fall by blitzing the strongest field in women’s college golf by seven strokes and zoomed to No. 1 in the polls. On the down side, one of the team’s top players, Nanna Madsen, turned professional in November.
• Lauren Stephenson (Lexington), who has signed to play at Clemson, climbed to sixth place overall and third in the Class of 2014 in Golfweek rankings. She won numberous titles, earned Rolex Junior All-America honors and advanced to the round of 32 in the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
• After barely advancing to the match-play portion of the 2014 NCAA Championship, USC’s men’s team finished the fall season strong with victories in two of four starts.
• In national tournaments, Rick Cloninger (Fort Mill), again the state’s senior player of the year, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur, and Todd White (Spartanburg), a four-time state player of the year, made the quarterfinals in the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
Chip ins The Midlands Golf Course Owners Association’s 2015 Passport Book, which offers discounts at 15 area courses, two driving ranges and one retailer, is on sale for $50. Passports can be purchased online at scmidlandsgolf.com or at Weed Hill and Par Tee driving ranges, Koosa Golf and the South Carolina Golf Association office. ... In the Ford-Picard Christmas Classic at Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms, Matt and Steve Tester (Spartanburg) edged Jeff and Jacqueline Twitty (Chapin) to win the parent-child competition. In individual play, age-group champions included Ben Burton (Charleston, boys’ 13-18), Jaclyn Tindal (Rock Hill, girls’ 14-18), Adam Hunt (Columbia, boys’ 12-under) and Emily Dunlap (Greenville, girls’ 13-under). ... The 12th annual South Carolina Golf Day is set for Jan. 10 at Columbia County Club. For ticket information, call the SCGA office at (803) 732-9311.