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Strong field, stronger play in first round of Palmetto Amateur

Players wait to tee off on the 16th hole at Palmetto Golf Club.
Players wait to tee off on the 16th hole at Palmetto Golf Club.(Mike Jakucionis)
Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 12:24 AM EDT
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AIKEN, Sc. (WRDW/WAGT) - An overcast day didn’t stop the first round of the 2021 Palmetto Amateur from getting underway. As always, the field is stacked with local talent, young talent, college talent, international talent, and more.

The field is, as always, mostly made up of college students keeping busy over the summer. There are a few participants who are still in high school in the field, and some who would rather not admit when they graduated college. Former professional and Aiken native Brian Quackenbush falls into the latter category, representing one of the oldest players in the field. Two weeks ago, Quackenbush found himself finishing in second place at the South Carolina Amateur Match Play Championship. Now that he’s off tour, Quackenbush is currently enjoying the ways he can improve his golf game and still stay competitive.

“I’ve been working some stuff, trying to get a little more distance back. Trying to get a little more mentally creative with my putting. I feel like that’s paying off. I’m having fun with it, you know?” said Quackenbush.

Among the younger players in the field, Jonathan Griz of Hilton Head is making his second appearance in the tournament. Griz is no stranger to golf tournaments in the area, admitting most courses in South Carolina feel like a home course to him. As his golf game has evolved in the last year, Griz has found that playing the more conservative shot as opposed to the aggressive one has helped his game improve the most. He’s more likely to use a 3-wood or one of his two 3-irons off the tee than a driver and is focusing on playing the smarter shot. With Palmetto being a shorter course, it works to his advantage. Griz admitted that even playing the smart shot may not be enough at Palmetto.

“This golf course can bite you in the butt a little bit. I mean you can hit it within 15 feet and walk away with bogey. Gotta be careful where you put it, and it’s a world class golf course honestly, because you can hit an 80 yard wedge shot and if you’re not careful, make bogey,” said Griz.

As day two starts, weather will certainly be on the minds of tournament officials and golfers alike. Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to bring rain to Aiken overnight. Palmetto Golf Club is known for its lightning fast greens and unforgiving approaches. The rain may be able to slow down the greens and give the players an advantage, though players more familiar with the club still think there won’t be too much change.

“Now I’m still expecting if we get an inch of rain tonight, that stuff is going to roll out. It’s all sand based and it drains so well. Balls are going to bounce. The greens might get a little easier to putt,” said Quackenbush.

We already saw an exceptional first day of scoring. Alex Goff leads the field at 5 under following the first round, already reaching half of Tyler Strafaci’s winning score in 2020. Quackenbush is just off the pace at 3 under, Griz shot even par in his first round. The full leaderboard can be found here.

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