Palmetto Amateur moves to earlier, cooler date

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By the time players wrapped up the 2011 Palmetto Amateur last July, the heat index had climbed well into triple digits.

Aiken Golf Club owner Jim McNair Jr. was honored Wednesday night as the recipient of the fourth annual Hitchcock-Whitney Award.   SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Aiken Golf Club owner Jim McNair Jr. was honored Wednesday night as the recipient of the fourth annual Hitchcock-Whitney Award.

That’s not a concern this year.

The 37th annual Palmetto Amateur was moved to early June. Now, the event will be played today through Sunday at Palmetto Golf Club with temperatures expected to reach the low-to-mid 80s.

“The temperatures are much cooler,” Palmetto Amateur publicity chairman Joe Spencer said. “Everyone is pleased with the new date.”

Palmetto Amateur officials have constantly moved their event around the summer to avoid conflicting with other big-time amateur events. This year, they found an opening after the NCAA Division I Championship and before the U.S. Open.

The change in date has helped the tournament secure a solid 96-player field. A pair of South Carolina signees joining the Gamecock program this fall are expected to be top contenders this week. North Augusta’s Matt NeSmith, the No. 2 junior in the world, regularly practices at Palmetto. Will Starke won the 2011 Southern Cross tournament at the course.

Austin Langdale is another young gun to watch. The Clemson signee won the Southern Cross in April.

Scott Strohmeyer, who helped lead Alabama to the NCAA Division I championship match, is entered along with a large contingent of college golfers. Clemson and South Carolina (including Augusta’s Dykes Harbin) each have five players in the field, while Augusta State has four. Also, Alabama’s Lee Knox, of Augusta, is entered.

Augusta’s John Engler, who spent a year on the PGA Tour, is looking to break through in the Palmetto Amateur after posting a pair of top-five finishes the past two years. Todd White is looking to win his second Palmetto title in three years after claiming the event in 2010.

Last year, Will McCurdy tied with Nicholas Reach at 10-under for the 72-hole event. McCurdy made par on the first hole of sudden death, the par-3 16th, to claim the victory.

JIM MCNAIR JR. HONORED

Aiken Golf Club owner Jim McNair Jr. was honored Wednesday night as the recipient of the fourth annual Hitchcock-Whitney Award. McNair played college golf for Clemson, graduating in 1980. After serving as an assistant pro at Burning Tree Club and at Harbour Town Golf Links, he returned to Aiken in 1984 to work with his father, who purchased the course in 1959. In 1986, the younger McNair assumed full responsibility for managing the club.

He eventually strengthened the course, especially around the greens. Now, Aiken Golf Club is considered one of the top public courses in South Carolina.

– Chris Gay, staff writer


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