AIKEN — Jim Holtgrieve offered some friendly advice for those playing in the Palmetto Amateur golf tournament this week.
Don’t turn professional if all you’re after is the money.
Holtgrieve, 65, should know. After a stellar amateur career, Holtgrieve joined the Champions Tour when he turned 50. After a few years, he gave it up and eventually regained his amateur status.
Holtgrieve will serve as Walker Cup captain this year, and he spoke to the players Tuesday night about what it means to represent their country.
“If they have a chance to play for their country, they need to do that first rather than playing for money,” he said. “I’m a prime example if you’re only going out there for the money, you’re going to fail. I just get really patriotic about the fact that they need to focus on playing on the Walker Cup team, and they can always be a Walker Cupper. That’s something they can have for the rest of their life.”
Holtgrieve was one of the country’s top amateurs in the 1970s and 1980s, and he played on three winning Walker Cup teams while compiling a 6-4 record. He also played on two winning World Amateur Championship teams.
He also played in five Masters Tournaments, and he made the cut three times.
The St. Louis resident had enough game to join the Champions Tour. From 1999 to 2005, he played in 122 professional events, and his best finish was a tie for second.
“I said I’m 50 years old, I’ve had a pretty good amateur career, and if I play golf every day I’ll probably get pretty good and win a bunch of money,” Holtgrieve said. “That’s the attitude I went out with. I learned that’s not the answer. I wasn’t having fun.”
Holtgrieve served as Walker Cup captain in 2011. The U.S. squad lost to Great Britain and Ireland, 14-12, at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
This year, the biennial competition will be held at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., in September.
“We’ve got a little score to settle, got beat in Scotland, and we’re trying to bring the cup back,” he said.
Holtgrieve lobbied the U.S. Golf Association to change the selection process and make two of the 10 members of the team come from the mid-amateur, or 25 and over, ranks. Later this summer, the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee will announce the American team with input from Holtgrieve.
The 72-hole Palmetto Amateur gets under way today with a field of 98 players. Mitch Gray, of Florence, S.C., won in 2012 but won’t be back to defend his title. He recorded three rounds in the 60s last year for a five-shot victory.
Also Tuesday night, Joe Spencer received the 2013 Hitchcock-Whitney Award for his contributions to the development of the Aiken Hook A Kid On Golf program. Since 2002, more than 2,000 children have participated in the program through the support of the community and local golf clubs.
In 2006, Spencer and the Aiken program were recognized as the National Site of the Year out of 250 Hook A Kid On Golf clinics in the United States.