Officials of the United States Golf Association set themselves up for withering criticism with their handling of rules situations in both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open last summer. One guy likened them to the Keystone Kops and another renamed their organization the “United States Gaffe Association.”
Then, the organization’s president made the comments valid by calling the women’s champion by the wrong name, presenting the trophy to “Bethany” Lang rather than Brittany Lang.
The USGA got one thing right in recent years. The decision to eliminate the U.S. Public Links championships, which had evolved into another version of U.S. Amateurs, and to replace those events with Four-Ball tournaments deserves a thumbs-up.
First, many recreational foursomes use the format that calls for the best score from a two-player team counting. Second, the strategy and pressure involved provide a different dimension to the game.
That comes to mind this week with both the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball starting at high-profile courses close to home. The men will square off in Pinehurst, N.C. with the match-play set for Pinehurst No. 2; and the women will compete in Myrtle Beach with match-play at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club.
“The risk-reward component and the overall strategy makes the format interesting and fun,” said Todd White, the Spartanburg high school instructor who teamed with Nathan Smith to win the first U.S. Four-Ball in 2015. “You have to make a lot of decisions; there’s a lot of thinking involved. It’s a roller-coaster of emotions.”
White related the story of his partner hitting his tee shot into the deep and penal rough. “I’ve got your back,” he said. Alas, White’s tee ball went into a hazard, essentially eliminating him from the hole. “I told him, ‘Play hard, partner,’ ” White said. “That’s the beauty of four-ball.”
While White and Smith and 127 other teams are tackling Pinehurst, Dawn Woodard, who has won multiple South Carolina women’s titles, and partner Meghan Stasi and 63 other teams will challenge Myrtle Beach.
“I grew up 45 minutes from here (in Nichols), and I knew I had to try and qualify,” said Woodard, who now lives in the Greenville area. “This is as close to home as it gets. I remember coming here to play high school and junior events, and it’s a treat to come back.”
She likes the team format for a change of pace and said, “It’s a fun event; you’re not just out there with your caddie. You can talk and think about strategy. One thing I’ve seen through the years is a lot of good players might not have the nerve or patience to go it alone but will play and do very well in a team event.”
At both sites, teams will compete in stroke play Saturday and next Sunday, then move into match play on Monday. The champions will be crowned on Wednesday. There is no charge for admission.
Clemson’s Marisa Messana earned the NCAA Elite 90 award for women’s golf. The award is presented at each national championship to the player with the highest GPA among those competing in the event. Messana has a 4.0 GPA in communications. … George Ackerman (Charleston) and Mike Weiner (Kiawah Island) won their third consecutive SCGA Super Senior Four-Ball title at Cobblestone Park. … Newberry begins its quest for the NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Championship on Monday in Kissimmee, Fla. Junior Carlos Leandro leads the Wolves with a 72.99 scoring average. … In connection with the installation’s 100th birthday, Fort Jackson Golf Club will stage its Centennial Tournament on June 2. The Captain’s Choice event is open to all golfers, with competition in both gross and net categories. For information, call the FJGC Pro Shop at 803-787-4437. … Gracyn Burgess (Lexington) captured the CGA’s Vicki DiSantis Girls’ Championship in Charlotte.