Mid-Am is a dream for S.C. duo

KIAWAH ISLAND - The dream began well before August, when the first of numerous qualifying events began taking place across the country. And the dream will become reality Thursday when a U.S. Mid-Amateur champion is crowned from among the 264 contestants, age 25 and older, at Kiawah Island Club's Cassique course.

This is the second time the U.S. Mid-Am has been contested in South Carolina. It was played in 1991 at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island, with Jim Stuart of Macon, Ga., defeating Bert Atkinson of Charleston, 1-up.

Atkinson, now 51, will be competing in his 27th U.S. Golf Association championship this week. He will be joined by a couple of first-time USGA participants from the Charleston area: Mike Cobb of Summerville and Tre Sheppard of Mount Pleasant.

"I don't know that I'm shocked," said Sheppard, who like Atkinson and Cobb qualified at the Country Club of Charleston where all three shot 2-under-par 69s. "This is the first time I've played in a USGA event. That's exciting. I'm just going out there, hopefully to do my best and play good. I would be happy to make it to match play. That would be a good tournament if I do that."

Sheppard, a member at the Country Club of Charleston, is 39 and in the construction business. He played some golf in high school and college while growing up at Snee Farm, got serious about it and then gave it up from 1995 until 2007 when his son picked up the game.

"He got me back into playing," Sheppard said. "Now, I'm trying to keep my game up. I'm having fun with it. Obviously, I have to work, but this is fun. I'll go out, try to have fun and if I play well, that will be great."

Cobb, 34, has enjoyed success in local events and has played well against many of the same players who will be in the Mid-Am during the Azalea Invitational at the Country Club of Charleston. He plays mostly out of Miler and Berkeley country clubs.

"That course (the Country Club of Charleston) sets up well for me so, yeah, I felt I could qualify," said Cobb, who is in the auto sales business. "I didn't think 69 would do it. I thought it would be a playoff."

Cobb said he is excited to be playing in this week's event and knows well both of the qualifying courses, River and Cassique, after playing in several member-guests.

"I don't know what it will take to get to match play," he said, "but that's what I want to do. Anything can happen when you get to match play."

- Nine South Carolina players qualified, including Atkinson, Cobb and Sheppard. Other S.C. qualifiers include Jordan Byrd, Clemson; Nash Elliott, Estill; Robert Godfrey, Seneca; Kyle Milner, Spartanburg; William Nisbet, Pawleys Island; and Blair Scurlock, Greenville.

- The field includes eight former Mid-Amateur winners who were exempt, along with U.S. Walker Cup captain Buddy Marucci of Villanova, Pa., the 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur champion.