Rice Planters Amateur a starting point for future golf stars
MOUNT PLEASANT — When Austin Cody clinched the Rice Planters Amateur golf tournament a year ago at Snee Farm Country Club, the former Pinewood Prep star who now plays for Duke joined an elite group.
The tournament is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, and Monday night proudly recalled an illustrious group of Rice Planters champions at a dinner at Alhambra Hall. Joining Cody at the head table were three-time champion Allen Doyle, who went on to star on the Champions Tour, and two-time winner Bert Atkinson.
The past champions, along with master of ceremonies Charlie Rymer, spoke of what the tournament had meant to them and, in turn, they praised the vision of the tournament’s founder, retired Mount Pleasant businessman Dick Horne.
Former Rice Planters winners have won more than 141 events on the PGA, Champions and Nationwide tours. Three former Rice Planters champions — Hal Sutton, Tom Lehman and Stewart Cink — have won major championships. Sutton and Lehman went on to captain U.S. Ryder Cup teams.
Rice Planters champions who have won on the PGA Tour include Andy Bean, Bob Byman, Scott Hoch, Brandel Chamblee, Brian Gay and Duffy Waldorf. Players who competed in but did not win the Rice Planters include Davis Love III, Mark O’Meara, Jeff Sluman, Steve Jones, Tim Herron and Scott Verplank.
“My goal was to find the best amateurs and future PGA Tour players that couldn’t help but succeed,” said Horne, 72.
Horne, who captained the golf team at The Citadel, was playing in the prestigious Porter Cup in Niagara Falls, N.Y., when he came up with the idea for the Rice Planters. He got the blessing of Snee Farm Country Club and sent out invitations, using the Porter Cup’s mailing list.
“I got no response, to speak of, so I got a sheet of paper and put an entry form together and walked downtown Charleston and saw people I knew who played golf, told them we were starting a tournament and asked them to play,” Horne said.
The tournament was held in the fall with 51 players. Future PGA Tour member David Canipe won. The next year, amateur star Bill Harvey beat Horne in a playoff. The tournament really got its legs in the third year when Andy Bean, who would go on to a standout career on the PGA Tour, won in his final amateur tournament.
Several years ago, Bean recalled the tournament, remembering that at the dinner the night before the final round, he took a bet that he wouldn’t dive off the high diving board at the pool and won $430.
“I was a college kid and that was a lot of money,” Bean said. “The Rice Planters was a good tournament to play in. We had a good time. The people there were very nice. I have nothing but good memories.”
Following Bean’s win, the tournament switched to summertime dates in order to attract more college golfers. For many years, it was a Lowcountry Fourth of July tradition.
“The tournament kept snowballing until the point we could be very selective with who we invited. It ended up that one out of three that applied got accepted,” said Horne, who spread the word while playing the British Amateur and the Bermuda Amateur and turned the Rice Planters into an international event embraced by the club membership.
Horne said the club membership and the Mount Pleasant community are what make the tournament successful. Though retired from helping run the event, Horne still participates in the trophy ceremony and each year implores the players to return the following year and bring a player better than they are.
The Rice Planters Amateur presented a $6,000 check Monday to the South Carolina Junior Golf Association.
RICE PLANTERS MAJORS
Hal Sutton (1979) won the 1983 PGA Championship
Tom Lehman (1982) won the 1996 British Open
Stewart Cink (1993) won the 2009 British Open.
Other notes of interest: Two former Rice Planters winners captained the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Sutton in 2004 and Lehman in 2006. Other notable major championship winners who played in but did not win the Rice Planters include Davis Love III, Mark O’Meara and Jeff Sluman. Three-time Rice Planters champion Allen Doyle (1988, 1990 and 1994) won four Champions Tour majors, the 1999 PGA Seniors, 2011 Ford Senior Players and the 2005 and 2006 U.S. Senior Opens.