Ringler: Players Amateur provides comfort zone

Berkeley Hall Golf Club seeks to cater to the wants and needs of competitors in the Players Amateur.

BLUFFTON, S.C. – What, exactly, is it about the Players Amateur that makes it so special for the men who play it? It might be having a golf cart to come and go as they please through the week, or it could be the variety of food on the buffet line before and after each round. Those two details certainly score major bonus points, but there is a whole lot more that make this event a must on the summer schedule.

The scene at Berkeley Hall Golf Club last week was almost like a secret society. To the average spectator, and even to this veteran media member of many amateur events over the past couple of decades, the bells and whistles aren’t all that apparent. This event certainly does not have the appearance of being over the top.

The Players simply is about good golf and everything a player wants when at a tournament. After all, that was the plan when Duke Delcher and Tom McKnight came up with the idea in 1999. The two sought an event that would cater to a player’s needs.

What does a player want?

Playing conditions that are ideal. Check. Practice facilities that can allow for work on any part of the golf game. Check. Of course, good food. Check. No transportation issues to and from the course. Check. Pace of play. Check.

Players are placed in private housing and most are given their own golf cart from their host family for the week, which is not only convenient but fun. After all, what boy grew up not wanting his own golf cart?

The field is treated with pairings that feature twosomes, which almost guarantees four-hour rounds. Playing in twosomes is almost considered a luxury these days, but is the norm at the Players Amateur.

This past week, a collection of some of the best amateur players in the world made the trip to Berkeley Hall to compete in the 15th edition of this event. The South Course is nearly perfect with putting surfaces that are so true, they almost seem fake.

Garrett Rank, a 26-year-old Canadian, torched the South course at Berkeley Hall in the second round with a course-record 62 that included 10 birdies and no bogeys. He built a six-shot lead after 54 holes, only to lose it after an errant tee shot on No. 7 struck a tree and went out of bounds. That mishap, made worse by a four-putt, left him a shot behind Scott Vincent as they walked to the eighth tee box.

Vincent stayed sharp, making birdies at Nos. 15 and 17 to turn in a final-round 4-under 68 and stay ahead of Rank and defending champion Hunter Stewart. For Rank it was disappointment. But, also a learning experience.

After a chip-in birdie on the final hole, he turned to the crowd with a smile. Sure, the pain of not closing the door on a victory thought to be a sure thing will probably sting for a while. Rank, a true gentleman, showed his respect for the tournament anyway, and that might have meant more. It’s the Players Amateur, and that’s how players should act.

At just 15 years old, the Players Amateur doesn’t have the history or the politics of an older event. It is merely a teenager – a teenager with its own golf cart and as many chicken wings and milkshakes as it can handle.

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