CARY — John Inman has played golf on a lot of nasty days in his life.
But the former UNC coach was all smiles when he came off the course on the damp, chilly first day of the SAS Pro-Am on Wednesday at Prestonwood Country Club.
“I made a lot of birdies, and it was tough out there, so it was nice,” said Inman, a Greensboro native who was too young to play in the event last year but has now passed his 50th birthday. “But I made some mistakes and a couple of double bogeys.
“Overall I’ve been playing well over the last couple of weeks and it’s been getting better. I’ve got my brother-in-law, Steve Ridge, on the bag this week – he’s my swing teacher – and we hadn’t worked together in quite a while. The golf course feels good; it’s playing long.”
At least it was supposed to be the worst weather day of the week.
Eighty-one pros are competing this week in the SAS championship, with eight Hall of Famers in the field including Nick Faldo making his U.S. Champions Tour debut and Colin Montgomerie playing here for the first time.
Mark Mouland’s team won the morning competition with a 49 and a scorecard playoff over Joe Daley’s team. In the afternoon, Bill Glasson’s group shot a 51 to edge Bruce Vaughn’s team by one stroke.
Fayetteville native Chip Beck, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour who played in three Ryder Cups including a championship in 1993, has a sponsor’s exemption for the tournament, as does Inman.
“Our team shot 18-under, which was pretty good,” he said. “I think it was probably the coldest day of the week. I’m looking forward to playing in a little bit better conditions. But the course is going to play well. It’s going to be a little bit challenging because of the wind and the cold.
“This week I was testing out some new equipment that was supposed to fit me better, but being lighter weight, it didn’t perform as well in the cold weather, so I went back to the old stuff again. But I went with it four or five days. I’m checking my fundamentals and where I’m aiming and my ball flight. You follow the ball flight characteristics and it will tell you what you’re doing in your game.”
Bernhard Langer is defending champion for the 13-year-old tournament. Seven former SAS Champions are in the field, including 2005 champion Hale Irwin. There are a total of six North Carolina natives, five graduates of universities in the state and four North Carolina residents in the event.
They also include Hall of Famer and Wake Forest alumnus Curtis Strange, 1998 Masters and British Open champ Mark O’Meara of Goldsboro, Raleigh native and Wake Forest grad Scott Hoch, and Smithfield’s Neal Lancaster.
The public will be admitted free to the second day of the SAS Pro-Am today, with shotgun starts at 8 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.
Championship competition begins Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., with live coverage on The Golf Channel each day from 2-4:30 p.m.
This week’s 7,212-yard championship course is a “hybrid” of the Meadow and Highlands courses.
About 600 entrants are expected for Saturday’s 5K run on the back nine of the tournament course. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. for the 8 a.m. race.