Originally created 06/18/04

Pruitt back to defend title



He works just 30 weeks a year. His employer is the PGA Tour. And as defending champion of the South Carolina Amateur Match Play Championship, he doesn't have any pressure yet.

Life, it seems, is awfully good for Dillard Pruitt. But appearances can be deceiving, and not everybody has welcomed him back to the world of amateur golf.

When the United States Golf Association gave the eight-year PGA Tour pro his amateur status back in 2001, several lifelong amateurs - including Masters Tournament participants Trip Kuehne, George Zahringer, Danny Green and Buddy Marucci - expressed their frustration with the reinstatement rule in published reports.

After all, Pruitt won a PGA Tour tournament (the 1991 Chattanooga Classic) and earned more than $1 million.

"The USGA luckily gave me my amateur status back, but it ruffled some feathers," Pruitt said. "I feel like I work X amount of weeks a year. I'm obviously not beating balls every day.

"Maybe I've been to the pinnacle where some of these players would like to go. But I just decided it wasn't for me."

Amateur golf now is more his speed. In 2002, he captured the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur and Canadian Amateur events. Last year, Pruitt defeated Todd White, 5 and 3, to win the South Carolina Amateur Match Play Championship in his native Greenville, S.C.

This week, Pruitt returned to play his first event of the year. While 31 golfers played 36 holes to qualify for this morning's start of the match play portion, Pruitt was exempt through medal play. Regardless, he shot consecutive non-counting rounds of 2-under-par 70.

Pruitt, brother-in-law of Jay Haas, will have a busy weekend should he survive to the final.

The former Clemson golfer will return to Greenville on Sunday, then leave Monday for his day job as a rules official, working the Booz Allen Classic in Potomac, Md.

His job for the past six years includes overseeing tournaments inside the ropes. However, he also does odd tasks, like providing player transportation and player finance. The actual job of dealing with rules encompasses about 25 percent of his job, he said.

"There's a lot to being a rules official," he said.

In the amateur tournament, groups have played the two rounds of medal play this week in about four hours and 15 minutes. On the PGA Tour, though, Pruitt said pace of play is a problem.

"We have to monitor that," he said. "We have some regulations on board to cure it. I think things are working the right the way, but I still think they can be tweaked a bit."

Pruitt hopes to squeeze in the Palmetto Amateur at Palmetto Golf Club in his schedule this summer. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Pruitt, whose wife, Fran, is an Aiken native.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.