Falling temperatures means a slow-down in participation, but there is no rest behind the scenes.
“Always looking ahead,” says Happ Lathrop, long-time executive director of the South Carolina Golf Association.
While colder weather keeps some players off the course, maintenance staffs “look ahead” by taking care of fall and winter projects that might include tree removal, improving drainage, re-working bunkers and cleaning undergrowth from natural areas. If temperatures dip to freezing or below, greens must be protected.
Inside, administrative work continues at clubs, and Lathrop and his staff “look ahead” at opportunities to increase participation and plan the logistics for the myriad of events on the 2015 calendar. Plus, there are visits to member clubs to take a pulse of the game at local levels throughout the state.
The schedule for the SCGA’s 22 major events and nine USGA qualifying competitions is mostly complete, and the state’s signature event, the South Carolina Amateur, returns to one of the gems — Greenville Country Club’s Chanticleer Course.
“The players no doubt will be tested,” Lathrop said in looking to the Aug. 6-9 championship. “The golf course (a Robert Trent Jones design) guarantees that.”
Bill Hass, whose professional achievements include winning the FedEx title and the Tour Championship, won the State Amateur in its last visit to Chanticleer at 8-under-par 280 in 2003.
The Tournament of Champions opens the season Jan. 24-25 at the Tradition Club at Pawleys Island. The Senior Championship will be played at Bulls Bay in Awendaw near Mount Pleasant in May, and the Mid-Amateur moves to Green Valley in Greenville in October.
“We have some excellent courses,” said Lathrop, who noted the SCGA’s schedule will include the one-day tournaments for three age groups. The SCJGA will offer a full schedule, too.
The schedule illustrates how much the game has changed since Lathrop become executive director in 1977. His first one included 10 major events, five one-day events and nothing for juniors.
In addition to statewide championships, one of the USGA’s plums, the U.S. Junior Amateur, comes to the state in July at Colleton River Plantation Club in Bluffton. The event, won three times by Tiger Woods and twice by Jordan Spieth, features 156 juniors who will play Colleton River’s Nicklaus and Dye Course in 36-hole qualifying rounds, with the low 64 advancing to match play over the Dye Course.
If there’s one thing Lathrop would like to see different in 2015, it’s the weather. Rain played havoc, causing delays or cancellations in 11 major tournaments, and a dreary forecast forced rescheduling another. The State Amateur was cut to 54 holes for the second time.
“Even with the bad weather, we had another good year,” he said, “and we’re looking forward to another good one in 2015.”
Chip shotsHolly Tree Country Club (Simpsonville) won Lathrop Cup and shared the event’s pro-am title. Mike Gravley, Jeff Jaeggi and Ray Goetze claimed the Cup by four strokes over the Camden CC team, then joined with pro Craig Lyons to tie for the pro-am title. Amateurs Vic Hannon, Tim Teaster and Jim Burgess, along with pro Matt McCarley, formed the Camden contingent. ...
The 12th annual South Carolina Golf Day is Jan. 10 at Columbia County Club. Players of the year will be honored. Bill Smunk will be inducted into the S.C. Golf Hall of Fame. For ticket information, call the SCGA office at 803-732-9311. ...
Tickets are on sale for the spring’s two PGA Tour tourneys in the Carolinas, the April 13-19 RBC Heritage at Hilton Head Island, and the May 11-17 Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. For the Heritage, call 843-671-2448 or go to www.rbcheritage.com. For the Wells Fargo, call 800-945-0777 or go to www.wellsfargochampionship.com.