Palmetto Amateur might have its 'strongest field'

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AIKEN --- The Palmetto Amateur won't be lacking in star power when a field of 90 golfers begins play next week.

There's Corbin Mills, a Clemson golfer who won a spot in the 2012 Masters Tournament with his victory in the U.S. Public Links Amateur.

There's Jack Fields, who won the prestigious North & South Amateur at Pinehurst, N.C.

There's Tim Jackson, a decorated amateur from Tennessee who has won two U.S. Mid-Amateur titles.

Throw in Nicholas Reach, who won the inaugural Junior Invitational at Sage Valley this spring, and you have a loaded field.

"In my short time with the tournament, I believe this is probably the strongest field we've had," said John Roy, who is tournament co-chairman. "They help the prestige of the tournament, no question. All of these players will add to the quality of the tournament over time."

The 36th annual tournament will be held at Palmetto Golf Club. The 72-hole event begins July 20 and ends July 23.

Roy said the talent and age range at the tournament is wide. He cited as examples a teen from South Africa, Zander Lombard, and Jackson, an over-50 career amateur who has played in both the Masters and Walker Cup matches.

Mills followed up his win at the Public Links with a triumph in last week's Players Championship in Bluffton, S.C.

Tournament chairman Berry Crain said competition to get into the Palmetto Amateur is fierce.

Players must submit their tournament résumé. If they are not extended an invitation, they can also get in via two qualifiers.

Kelby Burton, of Augusta, shot 67 on Monday to earn one of three spots in the first qualifier. The second one will be held Monday at Palmetto with 43 players vying for four spots.

Local players of interest who are in the field include USC Aiken golf coach Michael Carlisle and John Engler, a former PGA Tour player from Augusta.

"We do have a lot of people who want to play in this event," Crain said.

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