Jamie Wilson calls putting the strongest part of his game, and he backed up his belief in the best possible way to win the 44th Palmetto Amateur.
Wilson needed to sink two “must-make” putts in a sudden death playoff in the prestigious tournament at Aiken’s venerable Palmetto Golf Club, and he did — the first to keep his hopes alive and the second to earn the top title of his golfing career.
A rising senior at the University of South Carolina from Mount Pleasant, he fashioned a solid college season with three top 10s — including a second and a third — in eight tournaments. He added top 10s in the Carolinas Amateur and the Rice Planters Invitational the summer before his Palmetto triumph.
“I knew I had to make those putts,” Wilson said in reflecting on his victory.
The first, on Palmetto’s par-3 16th hole, saved par and kept the playoff alive. On the par-4 17th, he drilled his birdie putt into the cup and collected the championship trophy after Evan Brown’s birdie attempt lipped out.
“When he hit it close on 17, I knew I had to make mine,” said Wilson, who finished four rounds at 8-under-par 276.
Experience is vital at Palmetto, and he used knowledge collected from junior tournaments, college events and previous Palmettos in playing consistently with three of his four rounds under par.
“You can make a big number at Palmetto and not realize it,” Wilson said. “A round can go south in a hurry.”
The greens provide the defense for the course that dates to 1892, and Wilson’s putting prowess came to the fore. “You have to hit in in the right places on those greens, and I did for the most part,” he said.
Wilson got his start in golf early — “My parents told me I was swinging a plastic club when I was 2,” he said. He watched his dad and grandfather play, started taking lessons at 4 and got hooked for good when he won a junior tournament at 9.
“My parents thought I had a future in golf after that, and I started to work with Danny Stewart at the Country Club of Charleston,” he said. “He’s helped me move up at each level, and he’s my mentor, my coach and my friend.”
Winning the Palmetto illustrated the growth in his game, and he called the tournament “a lot of fun.” Too, the win helped make up for the disappointment of missing the NCAA Championships with the Gamecocks this spring. Wilson became the odd-man-out after freshman Ryan Hall came back from an injury and moved into the lineup for the post-season.
“I was part of the team that won three spring tournaments, so of course I was disappointed,” he said. “But Ryan is an awesome player, and I knew he would play well.”
Wilson will compete his summer play in the South Carolina Amateur that ends Sunday, then looks forward to his senior season with the Gamecocks. If the Palmetto is an indication, USC should figure prominently in the national rankings.
In addition to Wilson’s victory, Caleb Proveaux, a rising senior from Lexington, tied for third and Hall shared ninth. And a future Gamecock, high school junior Gene Zeigler from Florence, tied for 19th.
“We have a lot of positives, and we can build on last season,” Wilson said. “We should play with a lot of confidence.”
Performances like his and his teammates in the Palmetto emphasize the possibilities.
Chip shots. Abigail Schimpf (Daniel Island), a rising high school senior who has verbally committed to play for the USC, broke the tournament record by nine strokes in winning the CGA’s Carolinas Junior Girls’ Championship at Columbia CC. ... Kermit King (Bluffton) captured a spot in the U.S. Senior Amateur in qualifying in Asheville, N.C. ... Emily Rapp (Greenville) secured a berth in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in qualifying at the CC of Lexington. . . . Luke Sullivan (Columbia) won the boys’ championship and Buggy Reinke (Rock Hill) took the girls’ title in the Jimmy Self Junior Invitational at Hilton Head Island. ... Clemson graduate Alice Hewson shot a final 66 to win the European Ladies’ Amateur title in Dorset, England.