Originally created 08/31/99

Out-of-towners take charge at Midland Valley



GRANITEVILLE -- Some unfamiliar names, at least locally, are at the top of the leaderboard in the second annual Midland Valley Senior Invitational.

Of the top six players after Monday's opening round of the 36-hole event, only two hail from the area.

Frank Herlong of Saluda and Doug Padgett of Aiken are the top locals in the hunt for the title. Each shot 72, which is even par from the 6,203-yard white tees the seniors played at Midland Valley Country Club. The course is a par-71 layout from the blue tees.

Herlong and Padgett are three shots off the pace set by 56-year-old Spencer Sappington of Alpharetta, Ga., and 57-year-old Scott Schwarz of Summerville, S.C. Out-of-towners joining Herlong and Padgett at 72 are Jack Madden of Greensboro, Ga., and Curtis Wagner of Peachtree City, Ga.

"We've got a very good field this year," said Augusta's Danny Williams, who helped started the tournament with Aiken's Bill Hardy.

Williams, the defending champion, shot 76 Monday in his first competitive round in nearly a month. Williams had to sit out three tournaments after being involved in an accident on his Waynesboro farm in late July. While mowing an area with a bushhog, a long stick came up through the seat and punctured Williams' groin area.

"They said I was really lucky, that it just missed an artery," Williams said.

He spent four days in the hospital and wasn't released by his doctor to play golf until 11 a.m. last Friday.

"I was over here (Midland Valley) playing by noon," Williams said.

As for Sappington, his name may not be familiar in this area but he's known throughout the state. In his 40 years of competitive golf, Sappington estimates he's won 140 tournaments. His biggest victory may have come last year when he captured the Georgia State Golf Association Match Play Championship, which is open to all ages.

"I rank that as a big accomplishment for someone my age," Sappington said.

This tournament is really two in one. Since this is the ninth and final Regions Cup event of the season for seniors, spots on the four-player Georgia and South Carolina Regions Cup teams are up for grabs. The Regions Cup Matches will be Oct. 2-3 at Belle Meade.

Herlong and Augusta's Joe Felton have the best chance to move onto their respective teams. Herlong needs to finish second to make the South Carolina team. Felton could make the Georgia team with a ninth place finish. Felton is in 12th place after a 74.

"I'd like to make the team," said Felton, who has played in the Regions Cup Matches twice. "I don't know. There's a pretty good field here. It used to be three or four had a chance to win. Now I'd say 25 percent of the field does."