Bluffton's Kevin King ready to take on US Senior Amateur

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 19, 2013 

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Bluffton's Kevin King gets some golf practice in Tuesday evening at Colleton River Plantation Dye Course in Bluffton. King will compete this weekend at the U.S. Senior Amateur at Wade Hampton Golf Club in North Carolina.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver Buy Photo

Kevin King is interested to see how his distance compares to everyone else at Wade Hampton Golf Club this week.

The Bluffton resident feels like he will be one of the longer hitters at the U.S. Senior Amateur. And he will need every yard.

The Tom Fazio layout in Cashiers, N.C., set up at 6,842 yards, will be the longest course in U.S. Senior Amateur history.

King is fighting the effects of surgery to repair a broken left ankle, which keeps him at times from getting all the way on his left side to complete his swing. But at 56 years old and playing the event for the first time, he expects to hit it out there.

"It's just a matter of getting back in the flow of tournament golf again at that level," King said. "It will be fun."

The tournament will mark King's 19th appearance in a United States Golf Association event. The list includes seven U.S. Amateurs, six U.S. Mid-Amateurs and a U.S. Open.

King was medalist at his sectional qualifier in Lake Wales, Fla., in August.

To combat the effect of the tender ankle, he wraps the area in athletic tape, straps on an ankle brace and applies cream to help numb the pain. The process works for a round of golf or short practice session, but rarely both. And so King has had to maximize his time in the practice area at the Dye course in his home Colleton River Plantation.

To stay sharp, King competes with housemate Todd White, who moved from the Upstate five years ago to sell real estate with King but continued teaching high school when the market bottomed out.

The men make up short-game and putting contests with dinner or other small prizes at stake.

King caddied for White in 2012 when White competed in the U.S. Mid-Amateur. Now White will carry King's bag this weekend in North Carolina.

The ankle will be tested, but King said it should help that the golf course winds through a valley and does not feature dramatic elevation changes.

"If I keep it in the fairway where it is pretty flat, I should be all right," King said.

King began his preparation a couple weeks in advance by adjusting his diet. He practices or plays every day and competed in the South Carolina Golf Association Mid-Amateur this past weekend at Oldfield Club to get a feel for competition.

For King, the trip to North Carolina will be a chance to connect with old friends -- he'll play practice rounds with Fort Mill's Rick Cloninger and a former Duke golfer who King played against as a member of the North Carolina golf team.

But he's also there to compete. King hopes to advance to match play after the initial 36 holes of stroke play.

"And then you never know what will happen," he said. "Injured or not, if I hit enough good shots, make enough putts, I cant beat anybody on a given day.

"That's the key is getting there."

U.S. Senior Amateur Championship

What: USGA event open to amateurs 55 and older through sectional qualifying or exemptions. Thirty-six holes of stroke play followed by four rounds of match play. The champion will come from an 18-hole final.

When: Sept. 21-26

Where: Wade Hampton Golf Club; Cashiers, N.C.

Details: At 6,842 yards, Wade Hampton will be the longest course in U.S. Senior Amateur history.

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