Field grows in strength for Palmetto Amateur Golf Tournament

The Palmetto Amateur unfolds for the 38th time this week with its strongest field, an indication the tournament committee is close to achieving its goal — making the tournament a “must play” event in the world of amateur golf.

Aiken’s Palmetto Golf Club stages the event, and 270 players entered in search of one of the 99 starting spots. Ninety-eight players will attempt to earn one of the remaining six spots in qualifying Monday.

Competitors include from Todd White, the 2010 Palmetto Amateur champion who is one of the top candidates for this year’s Walker Cup team; Cody Proveaux, the South Carolina Amateur champion; and Carson Young, the Carolinas Amateur winner.

“We have been overwhelmed by the number of quality entries,” tournament co-chairman John Roy said. “To have that many players with outstanding credentials seeking to play in the tournament tells me we must be doing something right.

“We want to increase the prestige of the tournament as much as possible, and we’re on the right track. We’re working hard to attract the top players.”

Players who have participated in past Palmetto Amateurs spread the word at other events, and the Palmetto Golf Club course, which dates to 1892, is an attractive selling point. Although short by today’s standards, Palmetto is no pushover. Mitch Gray won a year ago at 5 under par — and no other player broke par.

“If you can play well here, you can play well anywhere,” Roy said, “and I think players want that challenge.”

Tournament week tees off with qualifying on Monday and with practice and the players’ dinner on Tuesday. The 72-hole competition begins Wednesday with the champion crowned Saturday. Play begins at 8 a.m. each day.

Joining White, the SCGA’s 2012 player of the year, in representing older players in the field include Tim Jackson, a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who has played on two Walker Cup teams; former Clemson star John Engler; and Rick Cloninger, the SCGA’s 2012 senior player of the year.

Proveaux headlines a strong Clemson contingent that includes Stephen Behr, Billy Kennerly and Crawford Reeves USC will be represented by Caleb Sturgeon, Blaine Woodruff and Sean Kelly.

Jim Holtgrieve, captain of the 2013 Walker Cup team, will be the featured speaker at the Players’ Dinner.