Charleston City Championship winner Austin Morgan
Tommy Braswell, Charleston Post Courier
For the first time in its playing, The Charleston City Amateur was played on a completely new layout. After a year off -- not due to Covid like many tournaments, but due to a course remodel -- the tournament returned to the historic site where golf was first played in 1929. But the look and feel of the course and greens was completely different.
One man, Austin Morgan, had the game and mental mindset to take on the new layout's firm greens and the windy conditions that players encountered over the weekend. As for course knowledge, the former College of Charleston baseball player may have had the inside track there too. (His brother-in-law is the architect behind the renovation, Troy Miller.)
Morgan opened the tournament -- open to residents of three nearby counties -- with a steady 74, sticking to his relatively conservative approach that respected the difficulty of the new greens.
“Conservative golf, hitting quality shots to the middle of the green and keep the ball in front of you. I knew that going in,” is how Morgan described his game plan to Tommy Braswell of the Charleston Post Courier.
After going one better in the second round, Morgan was tied with Tom Hardy at 147 heading into the final round of the 54-hole championship.
It was largely a two horse race at that point, but the course had already proven it's mettle for 36 holes, and anything can happen when you're trying to win a golf tournament.
"(Sunday) I tried to stick to what I did the first two days," said Morgan. "It was a tough course."
Indeed, when Hardy made disastrous 7's on the second and third holes -- to his credit he birdie the fourth -- and shot 45 on the front nine, it was up to Morgan to play a solid back nine and keep any of the other contenders out of site. When he posted three birdies and shot 75, Morgan owned the title by seven shots over Hardy and Ian Campbell, who slipped into a tie for second with a final round 74.
MORE ABOUT THE RENOVATION OF CHARLESTON MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE
The course's storied history goes back to 1929 as it was the first municipal course to open in South Carolina. The course underwent a major facelift in 2020 under the guiding hand of architect Troy Miller.
Renovations have included major changes to its green complexes, growth clearing for better visuals of the beautiful Stono River, and firm turf conditions that should remain that way due to added storm drainage.
The greens have all been rebuilt, making their average size 50-60% larger. With increase in green size, this gave Miller the opportunity to add much bolder contours to the surfaces. So much for a home course advantage, even for long time "muni" players.
The course has always lined the banks of the Stono River. In recent years, natural growth had prevented golfers from having a view of the river. Miller has made sure the river is now seen clearly in all its beauty. Hole Nos. 11 thru 14 are now a part of the golf course which some would call the most scenic. Each hole is an ode to classic golf architecture. In order there is a redan, cape, road, and short hole on a part of the course Miller described as the most links style.
As many golfers know, wetlands nearing golf course properties can have its consequences. Troy Miller and his team were a step ahead as strategic storm drainage has been added to the golf course. Various preparations for rain and flooding have been put in place, including adding a pond for maintaining water, raising the ground level, and creating an overall better system for appropriate drainage. In addition to keeping the course playable even after heavy downpours, the course should play fast and firm on a regular basis.
“It is now much more of a thinking golf course," said Miller. "Players will be allowed to use the contours of the ground, but that requires thinking."
Miller said getting off to a good start is paramount to having a solid round at the new layout.
"There are some scoring holes starting out but with the newly designed greens, t will put an emphasis on the putter early," he said.
"The new look has made the golf course play more difficult -- you’re going to see a lot more birdies and doubles."
Hole Nos. 8 through 10 represent a particularly challenging stretch. No. 8 is a par 3 that can play as long as 240 yards. No. 9 is a 465-yard par 4 that can also play very difficult depending on the wind. And No. 10 is equal to number nine in distance but plays as a par 5.
Miller, interestingly, referred to number 9 and 10 as “half pars” due to the opposite wind direction players will face on two holes that are equal in length.
And here's a nice feature for both regular and tournament rounds.
The first tee has now been pushed back nearing the porch of the clubhouse. This allows spectators an easy vantage point to view opening tee shots. Hopefully those with “first tee jitters” will embrace this and get their rounds off to a good start. The par 4 17th has remained drivable after the renovations but a newly designed green allows one hole location to be very accessible for players reaching the green. Holes such as the 17th could make for a very exciting finish in Sunday’s final round.
Miller was in the field for the first two rounds, posting rounds of 80-84 before a no-card in the final round.
-- AmateurGolf.com Panelist Walt Todd contributed to this story
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ABOUT THE Charleston City Amateur
Open to amateurs who have resided in
County, Dorchester County, or Berkeley
for at least one year and are 18 years of
of the first day of the tournament.
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