Young golfers with big games keep coming in waves, a truth on display again Thursday in the first round of the 82nd South Carolina Amateur at the Members Club’s Woodcreek course.
There is Carson Young, the recent high school graduate bound for Clemson — after participating in the U.S. Amateur. There is Ben Fogler, a rising junior at Vanderbilt. There is Young’s Pendleton High teammate Austin Langdale, also headed to Clemson. Then there is Bryce Howell, the Blythewood High grad who will play at Furman, and Southern Conference champion Josh Lorenzetti (Blythewood/College of Charleston), Charleston city champion Jarrett Swan (Mt. Pleasant/Charleston Southern), Will Starke (Chapin/USC), defending champion Cody Proveaux (Lexington/Clemson) and ... the list is endless.
Against the youthful onslaught on the leader board stand soon-to-be 40 Jon Mathias, a member of the host club, and Lee Palms of Greenville, the only non-college age — or younger — player to win the State Amateur since 1997.
Fogler, Young and Mathias share the lead at 5-under-par 66 with Langdale and Howell one stroke back and Palms in a bunch at 3-under 68 after one trip around Woodcreek’s 6,942 yards.
Fogler, playing on his home course, posted a bogey-free round in the last group of the day to earn his share of the lead. Young’s lone hiccup, a double-bogey 6 on the 474-yard 9th, his finishing hole, dropped him into a tie for first. Mathias rediscovered his putting touch in a six-birdie, one-bogey round.
“The field is so deep in talent, and (the young players) not only hit the ball a long way, they score well,” Mathias, who works at Edwin Watts, said. “They have great touch. I played a lot better than I expected. The way I had been putting, I had no expectations (of playing well). But I started making putts and after I birdied my first hole (the 10th), my confidence went sky high.”
Fogler, who finished third in the Palmetto Amateur earlier this summer, needed 27 putts in his round of 66 and cited the comfort factor of playing on his home course. “You just know the course from having played it so many times,” he said. “I’m pretty average (in distance), but I hit it well off the tee today, hit my irons OK and putted well.”
Young said he played better in the spring than recently, but he served notice that his game had rounded back into form by leading local qualifying for the U.S. Amateur.
“Except for the last hole, I played really good today,” said Young, who won the 2012 Carolinas Amateur between his junior and senior years in high school.
Langdale bounced back from an opening bogey, received a big boost by making a 40-footer from off the green for birdie on No. 16 (his seventh) and scrambled a bit more on his back nine to take his place among the leaders. Palms, who also started No. 10, made his move on his final nine with a 4-under 31.
Overall, 27 players broke par and another 13 matched par. The field of 136 begins the second round at 7:30 a.m. with the low 70 scorers and ties advancing to the weekend of the 72-hole championship.