Originally created 06/16/04

Brown tests game against top players

There's no question that Scott Brown is the top player in the local Regions Cup series. This week, the North Augustan finds out how he stacks up against some of South Carolina's top amateurs.

Brown is among a handful of area players entered in the South Carolina Amateur Match Play Championship at Edgefield County's Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club.

The Carolinas Golf Association event starts with 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying (18 today and 18 Thursday). The top 32 players out of the 87-player field will advance to match play.

Brown thinks 7- or 8-over-par will make match play at Mount Vintage, a course he's played "about five times."

The first and second rounds are Friday, the quarterfinals and semifinals are Saturday and the 36-hole final is Sunday.

Former Clemson golfer Dillard Pruitt, of Greenville, S.C., is exempt from qualifying and is seeded No. 1.

Brown, 21, was the 2003 Regions Cup Player of the Year when he won three of his five starts. He won again June 6 in his 2004 Regions Cup debut, giving him victories in four of his past five starts.

The competition will be stiff this week for the 21-year-old Brown, but he's accustomed to that on the Regions Cup.

"I think the Regions Cup's fields are tough and they're getting better each year," Brown said. "If I go out and play like I did two weeks ago (in the Regions Cup's W.M. Gregory Classic, where Brown shot 67-70 to win by four shots), I'll do well. I'll have to play just as well as that to win."

Brown plans to play less on the Regions Cup and more of a regional amateur schedule this season.

North Augusta's Jeff Pope, another former Persimmon Hill winner, has also opted for the Match Play Championship.

Other top area golfers at Mount Vintage are Dane Burkhart, Benji Thompson and Patrick Cunning.

Should any of these players fail to make it to the match play portion of the tournament, they could still sign up for the Persimmon Hill tournament, which runs Saturday and Sunday.

"Me and Jeff have talked about it; I probably would enter if I don't make match play," Brown said. "I'm not 100 percent sure, but maybe."

For the third straight tournament, Brown will have to change his course management game plan.

In May, Brown played as a team member of USC Aiken, which he helped lead to the NCAA Division II national championship.

Then he won the W.M. Gregory Classic, a stroke-play event. Now, it's on to match play.

"If I get to match play, the key is to go in with the attitude of not trying to play the player, but playing the golf course," Brown said.

Brown has only played in one match-play tournament in his life. He finished second in the 2003 City of Augusta Match Play Championship, a Regions Cup event.

In stroke play and match play, Brown said he is more aggressive than when he plays for the Pacers.

"When you're playing with four other guys, you play for your team," Brown said. "You play a little more conservative and try to make pars. You don't want to mess up and disappoint your team.

"It's a little different mindset now. Playing on my own, I can go out and try to make birdies instead of pars."

Brown, a sophomore at USC Aiken last season, didn't play up to his standards early in the spring part of the season, then came on at the end, helping the Pacers win their regional tournament and the NCAA title, where he tied for fourth place individually.

"His play was huge," USC Aiken coach Michael Carlisle said. "Without him, we wouldn't have done any of that.

"Scott's the kind of player who, when he gets playing well, he'll play good for six months," Carlisle said. "Then he may be down for a little bit. He's a confidence player. When he gets his confidence going, he's a pretty good player."

Brown played for Carlisle as a freshman in 2001-02 season, but lost his eligibility because of academics. After sitting out a year, he returned this season, but Carlisle wouldn't let him play in the fall.

"I said, 'I'm not going to play you until you prove you can do it here (academically),' " Carlisle said. "So he had to study and not play with us at all. He didn't tear it up (in the classroom), but he did OK.

"He had some problems (the first time he attended USC Aiken), but that's what being a kid is all about," Carlisle said. "You skin your nose and get up and go on. That's what he's done. He's done a good job."

In the year he sat out at USC Aiken, Brown attended Aiken Tech to get his grades up, which allowed him to return to USC Aiken.

"I just had to bust my butt in school and get back on the team because I wanted to play for Carlisle," Brown said. "I plan on finishing up there and winning two more national titles."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.


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