Stephen Woodard (USGA photo)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 23, 2018) – There aren’t two golf courses in the world that Stephen Woodard
knows better than Charlotte Country Club and Carolina Golf Club. He grew up on the former, and he’s a member of the latter. Familiarity often opens the door to good golf, so it’s no wonder Woodard is within sight of the top of the leaderboard through stroke-play qualifying for the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
It’s a dream scenario for any competitive player to have a USGA event come to town. Woodard, 45, and his brother in law Brett Boner
, 44, are as good as famous this week playing at home. As Woodard closed out his second round Sunday on the ninth green at Carolina Golf Club, the crowd of red-shirted volunteers (read: locals) ballooned near the front porch of the clubhouse. Superintendent Matthew Wharton made a well-timed arrival to see his man putt out for 1-over 72. Even with two double bogeys in his closing three holes, Woodard is 1 over and easily set to advance to match play.
Woodard is a reinstated amateur, one of many in the field this week. He spent 11 years competing as a professional and won the 2004 Edmonton Open on the Canadian PGA Tour. Two years later, he qualified for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. This is his fifth USGA championship.
“You get out of the game and you wait a couple years and you really miss competing,” Woodard said of transitioning to a job as a commercial real estate broker and starting a family. “You play with a lot of good guys in Carolina, and the more you play, the more you think, ‘I’d like to test it on that level again.’ I think the competition is what really brought me back.”
If Woodard is eyeing the inner-state competition, you can bet they’re eyeing him – and Boner – right back. Earlier this year, the two partnered to win the Anderson Memorial, a two-man best-ball event at Winged Foot. Boner, also a reinstated amateur who now works as a financial adviser, won the Charlotte City Amateur last month for the second time. He was 2 under and T-6 Sunday after 36 holes of stroke pay.
Ultimately, the two talented locals are a big reason that Carolina Golf Club was chosen as the stroke-play companion course to Charlotte Country Club. Both have done various stints on the board at their home club and happen to currently be on the greens committee. Boner distinctly remembers the day the USGA opportunity arose. The idea that Carolina Golf Club could be the stroke-play companion course was presented to Wharton, who got on board quick.
“Honestly, hugely excited,” Boner said of finding out it was all going to happen. “But then for the past year, every time I’ve had the chance to practice – at our age, we don’t practice a lot – every time I worked out, I thought about the Mid-Am. I wanted to put myself in position to make it.”
Qualifying wasn’t simply a matter of just driving up the road to the closest site. Both men studied the qualifying locations, searching for something that fit their respective games. Boner entered the qualifier at Cedarbrook Country Club in Blue Bell, Pa. He chose the location for its Bentgrass greens, shot 5-under 67, and was medalist.
Woodard, meanwhile, wound up at the Foundry Golf Club in Powhatan, Va. He was also chasing Bentgrass greens. After a 71, Woodard had to hole a 20-footer for birdie to advance from a seven-for-one playoff for the last spot. Woodard’s sister Lindsay called Boner, her husband, with the good news and the family could breathe easier. Both men were in.
Hurricane Florence was the only potential roadblock. In the days approaching the Mid-Amateur, golf in the host city was scarce, which produced an odd feeling.
“We couldn’t touch a club,” Woodard said. “And we’re thinking, everybody else – most everybody – is at home practicing while we’re watching football.”
When they last got out on their course, it was a week before the championship and Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the greater Carolinas. They teed it up in 30 to 40 mph winds. In the days that followed, the forecasted rain increased. Rainfall at each course exceeded 7 inches, but to look at the properties this week, you’d never suspect they were in the path of a hurricane. There isn’t a limb out of place or an area of standing water in sight.
Related: U.S. Mid-Am courses in Charlotte dodge brunt of Florence
With the end of the weekend, Carolina Golf Club’s duty is over, but Woodard and Boner are still very much in this championship. Match play presents perhaps an even bigger advantage.
“You know the courses so you can think about shots you’re going to hit and what it’s going to require,” Woodard said.
All the components are in place for a deep run by the Charlotte boys.
ABOUT THE U.S. Mid-Amateur
The U.S. Mid-Amateur originated in 1981 for the
amateur golfer of at least 25 years of age, the
purpose of which to provide a formal national
championship for the post-college player. 264
begin the championship with two rounds of sroke
qualifying held at two courses, after which the low
(with a playoff if necessary to get the exact number)
advance to single elimination match play.
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