Jun. 30—There's a new, joyous theme for the 46th installment of the Palmetto Amateur.
Back to normal.
That's the vibe heading into next week's tournament at Palmetto Golf Club. Spectators will be back on the grounds, course and clubhouse time won't be restricted for players, and other tournament policies will be back to their pre-2020 versions.
"We are fortunately back open to the public," tournament co-chairman Brad Crain said Wednesday. "We're getting back to normal around here and are glad COVID's getting behind us, so I'm excited to welcome everybody back out to the course next week and be able to watch some great golf out here."
The coronavirus pandemic altered the 2020 Palmetto Am in several ways, with one key exception — it was still a world-class field competing for the Berry Crain, Jr. Memorial Trophy, and the same goes for this year.
Players representing 14 states and 10 countries make up the field of 78, which added its final three players following Monday's qualifier. There's loads of college players, as usual, plus a quality crop of younger and older competitors.
"It's very diverse, like it's been the last few years," Crain said. "We have a few mid-ams, 25 and older, we got a few of those guys in. We have a few members, as well. Our club championship, we take the top three, and those three players are in our field as well as a few juniors. We always like to try to support junior golf, so we have some good junior players in here as well."
UNC Greensboro graduate Nick Lyerly is the top-ranked player in the field at No. 74 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He's also the top returning player in the field, having finished fourth in last year's Palmetto Am. East Carolina grad Patrick Stephenson and Clemson's Zack Gordon tied for 13th a year ago.
Reigning state amateur champion Jonathan Griz is the marquee junior golfer in the field at No. 50 in the Rolex AJGA Ranking. The rising senior from Hilton Head Island, an Alabama commit, recently got a taste of professional golf when he played in a Korn Ferry Tour event after advancing through the Monday qualifier.
Defending champion and eventual U.S. Amateur champ Tyler Strafaci isn't in the field, having turned pro following the Walker Cup. However, there are two reigning champs of other Palmetto tournaments — University of South Carolina signee Gene Zeigler, who in May won the Southern Cross, and rising South Aiken junior Cameron Biddle, Palmetto's club champion.
Club championship runner-up Brian Quackenbush is back in the field, and he's in fine form — he recently was the stroke-play medalist at the S.C. Amateur Match Play Championship at Mount Vintage and ultimately finished runner-up. Peter Marra, who a decade ago helped Aiken High to a region championship, earned a spot with his third-place finish at the club championship.
Other recent strong finishers at Palmetto are rising College of Charleston sophomore Zach Reuland, who in March tied for sixth at the Palmetto Intercollegiate, and West Virginia signee Max Green, who tied for fourth at the Southern Cross.
Palmetto superintendent Mark Swygert said the course is rounding into shape and by next week should provide the type of test that keeps bringing back such a strong field year after year.
There's potential to move the tees around from round to round, but the tournament will once again be decided on the putting surfaces — and Swygert said the greens are starting to smooth out and pick up speed.
"Anybody that's played out here usually knows it's not about where the tees are, it's where you hit it on the green," Crain said.
The tournament is scheduled to run next Wednesday through Saturday, with play beginning at 7:30 a.m. each day. The field of 78 will be cut to the low 40 and ties following the third round.