Best amateur golfers coming to Charleston

Photo provided by Tommy Ford ¬ An international field will be competing for the Cox Trophy when the 113th U.S. Women's Amateur is played Aug. 5-11 at the Country Club of Charleston. ¬

Looking back, Beth Daniel can point to several moments that ultimately led her to a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame. One was simply being introduced to the game as a youngster at the Country Club of Charleston. Another occurred when the club’s professional at the time, Derek Hardy, encouraged the 17-year-old to enter the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1975.

“I went (to Brae Burn Country Club in West Newton, Mass.) and played really well and ended up winning the thing ... that Amateur in 1975 opened up all the doors for me in golf,” Daniel said Wednesday.

Daniel’s comments came in a video conference promoting the 113th U.S. Women’s Amateur that will be played Aug. 5-11 at the Country Club of Charleston.

Daniel said before her first Women’s Amateur, she was a local player who occasionally entered state-level tournaments. But winning the Women’s Amateur gave her the confidence and credentials to participate in any event she wanted. Daniel went on to win a second Women’s Amateur in 1977 and played in two Curtis Cups before embarking on a successful professional career that led to her Hall of Fame induction in 2000.

The Women’s Amateur will bring together 156 golfers who have made it to Charleston by succeeding in one of 18 qualifying tournaments or otherwise have earned an exemption. The golfers will play two rounds of stroke play with the top 64 advancing into match play. The tournament will be covered by The Golf Channel.

Last year’s Women’s Amateur was won by 15-year-old Lydia Ko at The Country Club in Cleveland. Ko, who remains an amateur, went on to win the LPGA Tour’s Canadian Open. She is not expected to play in Charleston, however, but plans to use an exemption into the Women’s British Open.

“The eventual winner will have to win six different matches to become the winner of the Robert Cox Trophy,” said Shannon Rouillard of the U.S. Golf Association.

“These are the best women’s amateur golfers in the world. It will be the most challenging but fair test of golf they will see all year long.”

Rouillard praised the Country Club of Charleston’s efforts since the club landed the event, and talked about Charleston’s “wonderful history and great support of golf.”

“The Women’s Amateur is considered one of the USGA’s five major championships,” Rouillard said. The others are the men’s U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Women’s Open.

Rouillard said the course will play to a par-71 and will be set up at just under 6,500 yards. One wrinkle the USGA will probably utilize at some point is shortening the par-4 13th hole for some rounds from 370 yards to 288 yards.

“It will force players to think. Will they want to use a driver on that hole with the possibility of hitting the green or going into one of the bunkers? We want players to have to strategize,” she said.

Daniel spoke of the strategy involved in playing the course, which was designed by Seth Raynor and opened in 1925.

“It’s one of those golf courses that you walk around and look at it and think it’s not that difficult. But when you play it you start to understand the strategy. I would call it a second-shot golf course, but in reality you have to position your drive in order to set up the second shot to properly get at the pin positions. And the greens are very, very difficult,” Daniel said.

“The other thing this course has that a lot of golf courses don’t have is the weather conditions. Because it’s so wide open and because of its proximity to (Charleston Harbor and the Intracoastal Waterway), you normally get a lot of wind and that can cause problems. It plays different every day because of the wind and weather conditions.”

Daniel said that in addition to the challenge of the golf course, players must overcome physical and mental challenges.

“Most of the 156 players will be very young players,” she said. “It’s an experience, a wonderful experience, to be able to play in a competition at such a high level. But it’s also very much an endurance test, both physically and mentally. You can expend so much energy trying to get through those two rounds of qualifying for match play. Then it’s a lot of matches in a short period of time to crown a champion.

“I know the Country Club is excited about the tournament and I am excited about seeing these people play. I think it’s a great golf course for the event. It’s going to be a lot of fun for the city of Charleston, the Country Club of Charleston, everyone.”