Columbia City Golf Championship at Spring Valley Country Club to feature a strong field

If the players can match last year’s drama, the 201 Midlands Chevy Dealers Columbia City Golf Championship will be one to remember.

Eddie Hargett will defend his title in the 54-hole event Thursday-Saturday at Spring Valley Country Club, and long-time tournament director Bobby Foster labels the field “one of our best ever.”

Hargett, now 52, struck a blow for older players a year ago at Columbia Country Club, outlasting Jordan Sease, a Winthrop graduate who has since turned professional, by two strokes. The pair matched 5-under-par 67s on the final day with the champion hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation.

Hargett led Sease and Wofford golfer Brannan Hudson by one stroke with four holes to play in the final round and expanded his margin with a long birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole.

Hudson, USC’s Will Murphy and Furman’s Bryce Howell will be among the college players to challenge veteran amateurs such as Hargett, 2009 champion Brent Roof, Tom Kennaday and 11-time champion Steve Liebler. Jonathan Mathias, who led for two rounds before finishing third a year ago, is not competing because of family commitments.

“Despite all the rain, Spring Valley is in nice shape, and that layout is always a challenge to the area’s best players,” Foster said.

The amateur divisions — regular, senior and super-senior — will compete for three rounds with a 36-hole cut. The professional division will be over 36 holes, finishing on Friday.

Chris Miller, who heads the South Carolina Junior Golf Association, will defend his pro title against a field that includes six-time champion Burke Cromer, assistant at Northwoods, and five-time winner Clem King, general manager at the Country Club of Lexington.

In the senior division, Gus Sylvan will shoot for his third consecutive title against challengers that include 2012 runner-up Jimmy Burgess and 2010 winner Bernie Shealy.

The tourney is open to the public with free admission. All proceeds are earmarked to fund the Fairway Outreach program. The expected favorites are scheduled to play Thursday morning and Friday afternoon. The leaders tee off for Saturday’s final round in the 9 a.m. range and will finish around 1:30 p.m..

Martin player of month

Former Clemson All-American Ben Martin earned player of the month honors on the Tour for June after his victory in the United Leasing Championship in Newburg, Ind., and his fourth-place finish in the Rex Hospital Invitational in Raleigh.

Martin has finished in the top 15 in six of his past eight starts on the Tour and has climbed to fourth place on the money list. His $208,305 in earnings assure him a place on the PGA Tour in 2014.

Chip shots

Katie Rose Higgins (Charleston) captured her second CGA championship of 2013 with a 3 and 2 victory against Katie Kirk (Davidson, N.C.) in the finals of the Carolinas Women’s Match Play Championship in Stanley, N.C. Higgins, daughter of Citadel football coach Kevin Higgins, advanced to the title match with a 6 and 5 win against Taylor Allison (Elizabeth City, N.C.). ... Chandler Brazeal (Spartanburg) and Christopher Lane (Hilton Head Island) shot 66s to lead qualifying for the State Amateur at Lake Marion Golf Course. Forty-four players shot 74 or better to advance to the championship, set for Aug. 1-4 at the Members Club’s Woodcreek Course. ... Wilhelm Elliott placed second in the qualifying round in the boys’ 12-13 division of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition and will advance to the second round Aug. 5 at Atlanta Athletic Club. ... Dwight Cauthen Jr. (Columbia) defeated Jake Carter (Aiken) 3 and 2 to win the CGA’s South Carolina Junior Boys’ Match-Play title at Lancaster. In the girls’ final, Cayla Smith (Easley) defeated Annika Bovender (Mt. Pleasant) on the 20th hole.