Why South Carolina’s State Amateur golf championship is moving up on the calendar

Believe it or not, once upon a time South Carolina and Clemson played their annual football game on a Thursday afternoon in October. Always in Columbia, too. A ritual for more than 50 years.

Along the same lines, Major League Baseball used to schedule all World Series games in the afternoon, college basketball teams in conferences needed to win their league championship to make the Big Dance, and amateur athletes were most of the time really amateurs.

But nothing is forever, and so it is with South Carolina’s top amateur golf championship — the State Amateur — which will be moving from its traditional date beginning in 2025.

For at least 50 years, the state’s elite amateurs could pencil in the State Amateur Championship for the first week in August in making their annual schedules. Beginning next year, the tournament will move to late July.

Change comes slowly to long-standing traditions, and the South Carolina Golf Association did not make the decision just to test a new date. Blame — or credit — the United States Golf Association.

“The USGA has given our state amateur champion an exemption into the U.S. Amateur and our August date (for the State Amateur) would create logistic problems for our winner,” SCGA executive director Biff Lathrop explained.

To illustrate, the 2024 State Amateur will be played Aug. 1-4 at the Country Club of Charleston. The U.S. Amateur begins Aug. 12 in Minnesota.

“Add travel arrangements and practice time, and that’s a tight squeeze” for the state champion to prepare for the national event, Lathrop said. “And the time frame would be even tighter in some years.”

South Carolina received the national exemption too late to change this year’s State Amateur, but the 2025 event at the Woodcreek Club is on the calendar for July 24-27.

Receiving an exemption into the U.S. Amateur “is a big deal for South Carolina and really a testament to the quality of amateur golf in the state,” Lathrop said. “(The exemption) is based on the caliber of competition, and not every state received one.”

Todd White, who won the 2023 U.S. Senior Amateur, is defending State Amateur champion.

College golf. The Clemson women’s golf team completed the best season in the program’s young history by sharing fifth place in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship in Carlsbad, California. Seeded 16th, the Tigers finished fifth after 72 holes of stroke play that determined the eight teams to compete in match-play for the national title, then dropped a 3-1-1 decision to Southern California.

The Tigers, in their 11th season, made the national’s match-play for the first time. Annabelle Pancake finished seventh individually, the highest by a Clemson player in the national tournament.

Led by Isabella Rawl’s 6-under-par 66, the Tigers got off to a flying start in the first round and maintained a spot among the top five teams throughout the four rounds of stroke play.

Meanwhile, South Carolina, which had fashioned one of its best seasons with four tournament victories and entered the nationals seeded third, struggled from the start. The Gamecocks missed the 54-hole cut and placed 23rd overall.

Junior All-American Louise Rydqvist led USC, sharing 41st individually.

Top-seeded Stanford defeated UCLA in the championship match.

Chip shots. Fort Jackson Golf Club will stage both the Sonic Columbia City Women’s Championship and the Midlands Chevy Dealers Columbia Men’s Championship this summer. The women’s tourney will be played over the club’s Wildcat course June 3-4 and the men will tackle the Old Hickory layout in July. Simultaneously with the men’s event, FGJC will host a World Long Drive competition on Wildcat’s No. 1 hole. ... The Hilton Head team of Charlie Hall and Mike Poe fired a pair of 8-under-par 64s to win the SCGA’s Super-Senior Four-Ball title at the Legends at Parris Island. Roger Page (Duncan) and Tim Pope (Spartanburg) won the Legends division.