Originally created 08/15/98

Golfer has home-course advantage



When it comes to local course knowledge, Rusty Flanders could give a tour of Midland Valley Country Club in Graniteville.

Flanders, one of the favorites to win the Orville White Cup tournament this weekend at Midland Valley, has been the superintendent at the course since 1991.

He's already proven that he can win at the course. Flanders, one of the owners at Midland Valley, captured the Gordon Uhl/Golf Capital Invitational three months ago at Midland.

"More than anything, I'm comfortable with the course," Flanders said.

Midland Valley is the first of three Augusta-area courses designed by noted architect Ellis Maples. Midland Valley was established in 1960, followed by West Lake and Goshen in the late 1960s.

"This course teaches you how to use all your shot-making ability," Flanders said. "You have to use every club in your bag. You have to adjust to slopes, both uphill and downhill, on the fairways. And with the greens being as big as they, they can give you a hard time. There are still some putts out here that I've never had."

The par-71 Midland Valley course won't look the same as it did in the Golf Capital in the spring.

"Because of the time of year of the Golf Capital, the rough hadn't grown in," Flanders said. "Now, it's fully grown in. The course will play tougher because the rough will be a factor."

The winning score in the Orville White Cup, annually held in late summer, is usually around par. Jason Gabriel won in 1997 with a 1-under-par 141 total. The year before, Dale Overcash's 143 won it. The tournament record is 136, by Clemson golfer John Engler in 1995.

Flanders needs a high finish this weekend if he hopes to win the Cadillac Cup player of the year title.

He has a 64-point lead over four golfers with three tournaments, counting the Orville White, remaining. Flanders won't play in either of the final two events -- the Palmetto Amateur and the W.M. Gregory Classic at North Augusta Country Club -- both of which will be played next weekend.

"That (a high finish) has definitely come to my mind," Flanders said. "I want to give myself a big enough lead. Several guys can still catch me, but they're going to have to play well."

One of Flanders' goals this season was to make the 10-player South Carolina Cadillac Cup team for the first time.

"I'll make that goal; now I'm trying to be the points leader for the year," Flanders said. "If I do that, it will be one of the top things in my amateur career."

It's hard to beat Flanders' record in the three tournaments he's played. He won the Golf Capital (70-70 -- 140), finished second in the Persimmon Hill Classic (74-72 -- 146) and was ninth in the Perry Watson Memorial (74-76 -- 148). For the six rounds, his scoring average is 72.6.

With Flanders' final appearance of the season coming this weekend, he will have played in half of the eight Cadillac Cup events.

"It's hard to play in that many tournaments in a year when you have a family," Flanders said. "I feel fortunate that I'll be able to play in four."

Flanders, the son of former North Augusta Country Club head pro and current Midland Valley director of golf Russ Flanders, went nine years (from ages 16 to 25) without playing golf.

"I've made a lot of improvement the last couple of years," Flanders said. "Tournament experience was one of the things I was lacking. I missed all of high school and college golf experience. There are so many good amateur players in this area. I've learned from watching their games. That's what I mean by tournament experience."