Patrick Datz is long-removed from his days on the tree-lined fairways of Hilton Head Island.
He experienced more open layouts while a golfer for the University of Minnesota and now as an assistant coach at Iowa State, where the Cyclones' home course is a links-style layout.
So Datz, a 2004 Hilton Head Island High School graduate, feels ready for the test starting this week at Conway Farms Golf Club, a Tom Fazio links design built on more than 200 acres of farmland in a northern suburb of Chicago and site of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, which starts Saturday.
"Keep it in play, and you'll be good from there," said Datz, who learned about the course from former Golden Gophers teammates and coaches who competed there at the 2006 Big Ten Championship.
Bluffton residents John Patterson and Kevin King and Hilton Head High teacher Todd White are others from the area to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Am, which is open to amateurs age 25-and-older with a handicap of 3.4 or better.
Patterson, marketing and sales director at Chechessee Creek Club, qualified in August with a 1-under 71 at Columbia Country Club. The former touring professional will try to bounce back after not escaping stroke play at the Western Amateur, which was held in July at Exmoor Country Club, also situated in Chicago's suburbs. Patterson lost a playoff to Rob Simmons in the Hilton Head Amateur.
King qualified for his sixth Mid-Am with a 70 at San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla. He will play Conway Farms for the first time.
White shot 2-under 70 to qualify at the Country Club of Salisbury (N.C.). The Spartanburg native reached the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur in August.
Datz has competed the U.S. Amateur and Western Amateur. He finished 11th at the Iowa Amateur Championship earlier this year and has competed at several other tournaments on the state level.
Once a mini-tour player trying to make it as a professional, Datz now uses cues from his job to help him compete.
"When you're not in the fire and you're just on the golf course watching our guys compete, you see a lot of tendencies our guys have under pressure and that everyone's done," Datz said. "I've really learned from that."
2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship
What: United States Golf Association tournament for golfers age 25-and-older with a handicap of 3.4 or better. Two days of stroke play followed by 64 golfers competing in match play format.
When: Sept. 8-13
Where: Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest, Ill.
Details: Bluffton's John Patterson, former Hilton Head Island High School golfer Patrick Datz, Hilton Head High teacher Todd White and Bluffton resident Kevin King are those with local ties.