Some behind-the-scene stories involving South Carolinians leading to the U.S. Open that begins Thursday at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.:
▪ Todd White, the Spartanburg High history instructor who is one of the nation’s most prominent amateurs, sought to qualify for the U.S. Open in the Sectionals at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Ga. He shot 70-67—137, five shots short of advancing.
Then he saw Matt NeSmith’s scores — 63-64—127 — that led the field and earned the University of South Carolina star a berth in the national championship tournament.
“I saw Matt on Wednesday at Palmetto (at the Palmetto Amateur in Aiken) and I told him, ‘I played Hawks Ridge. Did you play the same Hawks Ridge?’ ” White said, laughing. “That’s incredible golf. He’s a tremendous young man who will represent South Carolina well.”
▪ USC golf coach Bill McDonald figures he is spending so much time in the state of Washington that he will soon qualify for residency and be able to vote in the next election.
He works with both NeSmith and former USC player Mark Silvers, who led Sectional qualifying in Dallas, and he will fly to West Coast this week to lend his expertise and assistance during their participation in the Open.
“Our team (USC) played in the NCAA Regional (at Brementon, Wash.) and I spent a week out there then (in May),” McDonald said. “Now, I’ll be out there another week. I will have been in Washington state for than I’ve been in Columbia over the past month.”
▪ Former Clemson golfer Sam Saunders, in his first year on the PGA Tour, qualified for his second U.S. Open in a unique way — using his caddie’s irons.
After missing the cut in the Memorial with rounds of 76-80, Saunders swapped his Callaway blades for a set of Callaway Apex irons that belonged to caddie Travis McAlister. The change paid off in a big way; Saunders, who is Arnold Palmer’s grandson, shot a pair of 66s to share medalist honors in Columbus, Ohio.
The switch in clubs, he said, wasn’t that big of a change. Saunders had owned the irons before giving them to his caddie.
Oh, and he said, “I made a swing adjustment over the weekend, too.”
▪ Entry deadline for the Midlands Chevy Dealers Columbia City Men’s Championship, is July 1. The tournament will be played July 16-18 at the CC of Lexington. . . . Bradley Kauffer (Greer/Winthrop) defends his title in the CGA’s South Carolina Match-Play starting Wednesday at the Windermere Club. The field also includes reigning State Amateur Champion Andrew Novak (Mt. Pleasant), current State Mid-Am champion Robert Dargan (Columbia), Jarrett Grimes (Columbia) and Chris Mitchell (Prosperity). . . . Christian Salzer (Sumter) and Jack Parrott (Columbia), who finished one-two in last week’s State Junior Championship, will be in the field of 54 in a qualifier for the U.S. Junior on Tuesday at Santee National. A second qualifier for the national tourney, set for July at Colleton River, will be held June 29 at Berkeley Hall. . . . College of Charleston golfers Anthony Gabriele and Phillip Oweida made seven birdies in 15 holes to beat Trey Taylor and Cabrick Waters 4&3 to win the SCGA Four Ball Championship at the CC of Lexington. . . . In the Jimmy Self Junior Festival of Flowers at Greenwood CC, Walker Campbell (Hilton Head Island) posted a 139 to edge Christian Salzer (Sumter) by one stroke to win the boys’ title and Natalie Srinivasan (Spartanburg) claimed the girls’ championship by 10 shots. . . . USC’s men’s team finished No. 7 in the final Golfstat Relative Ranking. . . . Dawn Woodard (Greer) will see her sixth consecutive WSCGA Matrch-Play title this week at Carolina Country Club in Spartanburg.