As a high school history teacher and an accomplished golfer, Todd White has an appreciation for the history and tradition of Pinehurst.
White now wants to become a part of it.
The 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship is being hosted by Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, and White and his playing partner, Nathan Smith, will be competing next month. The two won the inaugural championship in 2015 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco – and were in for a surprise.
The gleaming championship trophy had an engraving of two golfers giving each other “low-five” hand slaps. It represents the essence of the U.S. Golf Association event: friendship and competition, playing together as a team rather than an individual.
It also was a rendering of White and Smith, celebrating after winning a match for the U.S. team in the 2013 Walker Cup competition.
“An individual with the USGA came up and asked, ‘Does that engraving resemble anything you’ve seen before?’” White, who lives in Spartanburg, S.C, said Tuesday. “He went on to tell about the picture that was used. I turned to Nathan and said, ‘Wow, we’re the first champions and now we know that an image from the Walker Cup is always going to be on that trophy.’ That’s pretty surreal.”
White and Smith hoped to make it two in a row at the 2016 championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., but Benjamin Baxter and Andrew Buchanan won. Baxter and Buchanan, teammates at Southern Methodist, will defend their title when the championship is held May 27-31 on the No. 2 and No. 8 courses at Pinehurst.
The Amateur Four-Ball will have a starting field of 128 sides (256 players) that advanced from 51 sectional qualifiers. The event begins with 18-hole stroke-play rounds May 27 and 28, with the low 32 sides advancing to match play. The semifinal and championship matches are May 31.
In four-ball match play, each player plays their own ball and the low individual score of a side determines the winner of a hole. It allows playing partners to use different strategies in playing holes, if they want, and play to their strengths.
Bill McCarthy, USGA championship director for the event, said USGA executive director Mike Davis first broached the idea of a Four-Ball championship about 15 years ago. The USGA announced in 2013 the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball would begin in 2015, the first additions to the USGA championship schedule since the 1987 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
Among those in the field at Pinehurst will be Stewart Hagestad of Newport Beach, Calif., who was the low amateur in the Masters last week. Ryan Smith, 14, of Carlsbad, Calif., will be the youngest competitor and Jay Sessa, 61, of Garden City, N.Y., the oldest.
White, 49, has played in 22 USGA events, competing in the U.S. Amateur seven times as well as the 1995 U.S. Open. The former Furman golfer teaches at Spartanburg High and coaches the golf team.
The USGA and Pinehurst have built a strong bond the past 30 years. The Four-Ball will be the ninth USGA event held at the Sandhills resort – the most recent the playing of the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in back-to-back weeks in 2014.
The U.S. Open will return to Pinehurst in 2024, and the club will host the 2019 U.S. Amateur.
“The Four-Ball showcases the kind of golf played at Pinehurst every day,” Pinehurst president Tom Pashley said. “There’s a vibe about this event that’s very much like the Pinehurst vibe.”
2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship
When: May 27-31
Where: Pinehurst Resort and Country Club