The final pairing in the final round of the 2020 South Carolina Amateur included the kid, two college stalwarts and, the starter announced, “the old guy.”
The “old guy” — Kyle Bearden, then 30 — did not win that Sunday at Columbia Country Club; he tied for second. But he used the points earned in the championship for a springboard to winning the South Carolina Golf Association’s 2020 player of the year award.
On the eve of another season, his goal is simple: Do it again.
Bearden is a mid-amateur; “the working-man’s golfer,” says SCGA executive director Biff Lathrop of the category for players 25 and older. In his case, he is a shipping supervisor for a lumber company in Allendale and commutes from his Barnwell home each day rather than spending endless hours on the practice tee.
The coronavirus outbreak shuffled 2020 schedules and Bearden played in only nine events. He consistently racked up player-of-the-year points with high finishes, but he entered the final event, the Chanticleer National Four-Ball, trailing 2018 player of the year Robert Lutomski.
“My buddies figured we (Bearden and partner Jordan Sease) needed to win and Robert and Weston Bell had to finish outside the top 10 for me to get the player of the year award,” he said. “I thought, ‘No way; Robert and Weston play so well together.’”
But the perfect scenario for Bearden unfolded and he followed Sease in earning the prize for year-long excellence.
Bearden’s 2021 season begins Monday at Debordieu; he joins Sease in attempting to qualify for the U.S. Four-Ball. The pair made the field for the 2020 national tournament, but the pandemic forced cancellation.
After that, it’s the Partners Championship next weekend at Spring Valley and Woodcreek. A new addition to his schedule with be representing South Carolina in State vs. State competition this summer in Kansas City.
Bearden is no stranger to success at high level competition. He set the record in winning the 2018 State Mid-Amateur with 15-under-par 198 at Greenville Country Club’s Riverside course and has played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
His dad introduced him to golf at age 3, but he played all sports until finally focusing on golf in high school. He played at Winthrop University and gave the pros a whirl before regaining his amateur status.
“My grandparents had a home on a golf course in Barnwell,” Bearden said. “When they downsized, my parents bought their home and I could play all the time.”
Bearden, Sease, Walt Todd Jr. and Brandon Truesdale played together at Winthrop, and they swap partners in four-ball events. After Bearden and Sease team up in the U.S. Four-Ball qualifying, Bearden and Todd will join forces in the Partners.
“Like everybody else, we’re anxious to get back into competition,” Bearden said. “It’s been so wet the last month or so that I haven’t played but a couple of times. So, we’ll see. But last year was great, and I’m hoping to keep that going.”
Top college golf event. Those who relish high-powered competition need to be at Columbia Country Club for the Gamecock Intercollegiate, a three-day championship (Monday-Wednesday) that features five of the nation’s top seven women’s college teams.
The 54-hole event features all 14 SEC teams plus Baylor, Duke, Wake Forest and Furman. Baylor is No. 1 in the Golfstat poll with South Carolina second, LSU fourth, Wake Forest fifth and Ole Miss seventh. Six other teams are in the top 25.
Fans OK’d for PGA. The PGA Championship, set for May 20-23 at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, will be limited to approximately 10,000 spectators each day, tournament officials announced Tuesday.
The PGA of America will notify ticket holders who made purchases through the tournament website of their order status via email. Those who do not get an opportunity to retain their tickets will receive a full refund. Those who purchased tickets on the secondary market must contact the vendor for information.
Face coverings and social distancing will be required. There will be no grandstands, and hospitality areas will be open-air rather than climate controlled.
Heritage tickets. A limited number of tickets for the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage, set for April 15-18 on Hilton Head Island, are on sale. Go online to www.rbcheritage.com for details.