Before the 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship is played at Atlanta Athletic Club August 11-17, two other venerable Georgia courses will host amateur events that will attract strong fields including many of the state’s top collegiate players.
The Country Club of Columbus will again be site of the Southeastern Amateur June 11-14, with Atlanta’s Druid Hills Golf Club hosting the Dogwood Invitational June 25-28.
The Dogwood has become one of the country’s top amateur events and will be among the key national events leading up to the U.S. Amateur. The tournament has an impressive list of recent champions, including current PGA Tour members Brian Harman (2009), Webb Simpson (’07) and Hudson Swafford (’06).
Ben Kohles, who won the 2012 Dogwood, turned pro shortly after the tournament and one month later scored back-to-back victories in the first two events he played on the Web.com Tour.
Both Harman and Swafford played their college golf at Georgia, and the Dogwood will again have a strong Georgia college presence in this month’s tournament.
Duluth’s Seth Reeves and Woodstock’s Anders Albertson, both starters on the 2014 Georgia Tech golf team, will be in the field, along with UGA golfer Greyson Sigg from Augusta.
Tech’s Ollie Schniederjans, who finished second in last year’s Dogwood, will not be able to play this year, as he was selected to compete in the Palmer Cup, an event matching top college players from the U.S. and Europe. The Palmer Cup will be the played the same week as the Dogwood.
Other Georgia collegians competing in this year’s Dogwood will be Davin White (Georgia State) of Locust Grove, who was third last year; Michael Garretson (South Alabama) of Acworth, seventh; Zack Jaworski (Vanderbilt) of Alpharetta and Jimmy Beck (Kennesaw State) of Columbus, both 11th along with Albertson; and Billy Kennerly (Clemson) of Alpharetta, 15th along with Reeves.
The Dogwood will also feature top college players from schools all over the country, including defending champion Michael Johnson of Auburn, who shot 63-64 the final two rounds to finish with a 28-under 260 total to finish seven ahead of runner-up Schniederjans.
Druid Hills typically yields low scores to the players at the top of the leader board, with the course short by modern standards (6,860 yards), with mostly generous fairways. Three of the par 5s are 512 yards or shorter, with most of the par 4s driver-wedge holes for the longer hitters.
Atlanta-based golf course architect Bob Cupp extensively re-designed Druid Hills in 2003, with his efforts enhancing the status of both the club and the tournament, although a few of the recent winning scores have been exceptionally low.
Tournament week begins June 23 with a qualifier for the Dogwood, with an Am-Am event scheduled the next day. The 72-hole event begins June 25.
The Dogwood was first played in 1941, and its list of early champions includes some of the legendary names of Georgia amateur golf. After a break of two decades between 1973 and ’93, the Dogwood returned in 1994, with veteran amateur Allen Doyle winning that year shortly before embarking on a successful professional career.
The Southeastern Amateur has an even longer history, being played for the first time in 1922. Many of the same names appear among its champions, along with the likes of Doug Sanders, Tommy Aaron and Curtis Strange.
Doyle won the tournament five times between 1983 and ’92, with Wright Waddell and Carter Mize, the two most prominent Columbus amateurs in recent decades, winning the Southeastern Am four and two times respectively between 1989 and 2003.
College players have dominated the tournament for most of the past two decades, with Tech’s Reeves winning two of the last three years. Recent South Carolina golfer Dykes Harbin of Augusta won in 2012, with Alpharetta’s Derek Chang, who has completed his college career at Augusta State, going back-to-back in 2010 and ’11.
Mitch Krywulycz, who helped Augusta State win consecutive national championships, was the 2009 champion, with current tour players Jeff Klauk and Ryuji Imada, the top player on Georgia’s 1999 NCAA Championship team, winning in the late ‘90s.
Reeves shot 11-under 273 on the par-71 CC of Columbus layout last year to finish three in front of Beck, who was looking to score a hometown victory. Reeves, who has completed his college eligibility at Georgia Tech, will return to defend his title, with a number of players from the Georgia, Kennesaw State, Georgia Southern and Mercer teams heading up the list of challengers.
Like Druid Hills GC, the Country Club of Columbus was extensively renovated a little over a decade ago, bringing back much of the charm of the original Donald Ross layout. The club hosted the GSGA Championship that year to celebrate its 100th anniversary, with current PGA Tour stars Russell Henley and Harris English finishing first and third respectively.
Measuring just 6,515 yards, Country Club of Columbus still presents a stout challenge, and features one of the most memorable three-hole stretches of golf in Georgia – a trio of short par 4s beginning with the 10th hole known affectionately as “Oh Man Corner” after the slightly more famous group of holes at Augusta National.