Wildman previews: Northeast Am, Rice Planters

Brad Benjamin at the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.

Brad Benjamin at the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.

This week, the Northeast Amateur and Rice Planters are on the amateur schedule. Let’s see who is playing where, then break down the fields.

Tournament: Northeast Amateur Invitational

Course: Wannamoisett Country Club

City: Rumford, R.I.

Length: 6,732

Par: 69

Round 1 begins: Wednesday

Format: 72-hole stroke play, with tournament ending on Saturday

2010 champion: Joseph Bramlett

Previous champions include: Vinnie Giles (1971), Ben Crenshaw (1973), Scott Hock(1977), John Cook (1978-79), Hal Sutton (1980), Brett Quigley (1988), David Duval (1992), Jonathan Byrd (1999), Luke Donald (2000-2001), Anthony Kim (2004) and Dustin Johnson (2007)

• • •

The scoop: This is the 50th anniversary for the Northeast, which started back in 1962. Looking at a list of the previous champions, one would assume that a victory here can lead to greater things later. Also, with this being a Walker Cup year, the winner of this tournament (if American) usually gets a big boost in his stock for making the team. This year, the tournament features champions of all sorts. In the field is the U.S. Amateur champion, Peter Uihlein; this year’s British Amateur winner, Bryden Macpherson; Mid-Am champion Nathan Smith; Senior Am champion Paul Simson; and the reigning Public Links champion, Lion Kim.

Wildman’s Pick: Brad Benjamin. If there is one guy who still needs to prove himself to the Walker Cup committee, it may be Benjamin, who won the U.S. Amateur Public Links in 2009. Walker Cup captain Jim Holtgrieve had to notice that Benjamin was one of only three American amateurs to make the cut at the U.S. Open. Last year at this tournament, Benjamin finished runner-up to Joseph Bramlett by two shots, and if he could get a victory here, one would think his chances of making the Walker Cup got a whole lot better.

Sleeper Pick: Paul Simson. Let’s see if the old guy can hang with the young guns. People should not overlook Simson for a split second. Last year, Simson not only won the USGA Senior Amateur Championship, but also won the Senior British Amateur and Senior Canadian Amateur championships, as well. Simson does know how to win, but his biggest challenge may be the length of several of the long par 4s at Wannamoisett. If Simson can make the cut, or be in contention, I think I know who the crowd will be rooting for on Saturday.

• • •

Tournament: Rice Planters Amateur

Course: Snee Farm Country Club

City: Mount Pleasent, S.C.

Length: 6,808

Par: 72

Round 1 begins: Wednesday

Format: 72-hole stroke play, with tournament ending on Saturday

2010 champion: Carter Newman

Interesting fact: Stewart Cink (1993), Aaron Price (2004), Josh Younger (2007) and Brooks Koepka (2009) share the course record of 63.

The scoop: In its 39th year, the Rice Planters continues to be a main-stay on the amateur golf schedule. With several of the top-ranked amateurs in the world playing at the Northeast, this tournament allows another player the opportunity to make headlines for himself. The field list is still solid and will guarantee to have a great finish. Traditionally, scores are low at this tournament, so expect a birdie-fest in South Carolina.

Wildman’s Pick: T.J. Mitchell. The new leader for the Georgia Bulldogs could make a real name for himself with a win at the Rice Planters. Teammate Bryden Macpherson won last week’s British Amateur, so this may be Mitchell’s turn. If T.J. could win in South Carolina, then Bulldogs coach Chris Haack would have to start feeling better about his squad heading into next year sans Russell Henley, Hudson Swafford and Harris English, all of whom graduated.

Sleeper Pick: Austin Cody. In 2009, Cody played the Rice Planters and put up four great rounds of 65-68-69-70. He has played in the tournament and played well on the course before, so he knows he can do it again. Cody has the game and background to do well at Rice Planters, so let’s see if he can step in to the winner’s circle.

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