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Top field takes aim at 65th Azalea Invitational
18 Mar 2013
by Benjamin Larsen of amateurgolf.com

see also: Azalea Invitational Golf Tournament, Country Club of Charleston, Mike Miller Rankings

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Mike Miller
Mike Miller
Russell Henley, the former University of Georgia star and 2011 U.S. Walker Cup team member, knows a good golf course when he sees one. That’s why his decision to join the Country Club of Charleston after just one visit shines nicely on the course.

Henley’s reasoning? According to the club’s president David Humphreys, the recent PGA Tour winner said they were the best greens he’s ever played on.

Those firm and fast greens, and the rest of the historic track, which was established in 1786, will be tested this week by one of the strongest amateur fields of the season at the 65th playing of the Azalea Invitational.

Beginning Thursday, a field of 112 takes aim at a title once held by U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson (2004, 2007), PGA Tour player D.J. Trahan (2002) and four-time U.S. Mid-Am winner and Walker Cup player Nathan Smith, among others.

“It’s a wonderful course and a terrific field,” said tournament Chairman David Humphreys, who also serves as President of the club, which will also play host to the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship this summer. “We have good players a bunch of good guys.”

According to Humphreys, the 6,800-yard track, which was redesigned in 1924, plays a lot tougher than it seems.

“Our greens are firm,” he said. “The tournament record is 13-under but most players won’t get there. Webb Simpson won it twice and was only around 5-under.”

From a field complete with high level mid- amateurs, collegiate stars and highly-ranked juniors, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Defending champion Matthew Nesmith won’t be there to defend, meaning the prestigious title is up for grabs.

Mike Miller, the former Penn State player who was recently invited to attend the Walker Cup practice session, is the highest-ranked player in the event, according to our Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Player Rankings. The Brewster, New York native is No. 6 in the world.

North Carolina native Scott Harvey is ranked No. 18 in the U.S. and had a second-place finish at the Cardinal Amateur and the Rice Planters.

Brady Exber and Kevin Marsh help complete a solid mid-amateur field. Exber, of course, has won the Senior Azalea twice and also took home the Coleman Invitational this past year. Marsh is coming off a terrific year in which he won the California Mid-Amateur, Carlton Woods Invitational and the Stocker Cup. Exber was the runner-up at Carlton Woods and the Stocker Cup.

Other mid-am contenders include Walker Cup hopefuls Nathan Smith, who won his record fourth U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship last summer, and Todd White, currently ranked 14th in the U.S. Both players turned in Top 20 performances recently at the Jones Cup.

The college ranks will also be well- represented. Georgia Tech star and 2012 Porter Cup champion Richy Werenski is planning on attending. Reigning ACC champion Benjamin Rusch of Virginia will also be there along with Clemson’s Thomas Bradshaw, who won the Rice Planters and was second in the North & South Amateur.

Jim Liu, the top-ranked junior in the Golfweek rankings, hopes for a marquee victory. The Stanford-bound New York native will be joined by No. 7 Tae Wan Lee and recent St. Augustine Amateur winner Jack Maguire as the event’s must-watch juniors.

According to Humphreys, other contenders and perhaps ‘sleepers’ given that the tournament and the NCAA basketball tournament begin on the same day include Louisiana mid-am Patrick Christovich, North Carolina mid-am Matthew Crenshaw and John Engler, a former Azalea winner and PGA Tour member.

For complete pairings information, visit the Azalea Invitational website: AzaleaInvitational. net

All told, the field checks in at 112 --- one less than last year. Humphreys says daylight savings helps push the field to its near- maximum size.

Two qualifiers helped fill out the elite field. The event held an 84-player qualifying round to fill seven spots. The Country Club of Charleston also used its Club Championship as a qualifier.

Amateurgolf.com will have complete and ongoing coverage of the 65th Azalea Invitational. Check back with us beginning Thursday for scores, recaps and more.
ABOUT THE Azalea Invitational

72 hole stroke play with a 54 hole cut on a 1925 Seth Raynor design. Good mix of college players and mid amateurs. 7 spots available in a qualifier. Impressive list of past champions at this traditional event. The Country Club of Charleston underwent a major renovation in 2006 (the tournament took at one year hiatus) and was ready for play for the 2007 Azalea.

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