Former Hilton Head Island High School teacher Todd White has returned home to Spartanburg, but he's still in the Lowcountry this week doing what he enjoys: competing against top young talent.
The 46-year-old resigned his social studies position at Hilton Head High after this past school year and will teach at Spartanburg High School, he said Thursday. White said he wanted to return to the Upstate to be closer to family.
He shot 1-over 73 on Thursday to open the Players Amateur. White, the oldest player in the field and a member of the victorious U.S. Walker Cup team in 2013, said he hit the ball well but slipped with a double bogey from the fairway on No. 10.
"I'm just feeling a little more comfortable with the shots I'm trying to hit," White said. "I'm realizing I don't have to be perfect, I just have to hit good shots."
Players agreed Thursday that the rough wasn't as thick as past years, but that doesn't mean it played much easier.
Todd Sinnott found out the hard way on No. 18, when he caught a "flyer" lie, where the ball jumps out of the rough more than anticipated, and his approach sailed over the green and was in a natural area.
Sinnott dropped from even par to 4 over.
"I'm basically just saying wherever the pin is, take 15 yards off," said co-leader Matthew NeSmith, who was playing behind Sinnott. "It's a club and a half less. Even if you do think it's going to come out dead, it's not worth hitting it back there."
Geoff Drakeford, who has played each of the three years the tournament has been held at Berkeley Hall, characterized the rough as "brutal" the first year. He said it has since become manageable.
Bluffton's John Patterson was encouraged after opening with a 2-over 74.
He closed in 34 after a tough start and hopes to build momentum for the rest of the summer, which includes a U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier and defending his S.C. Open title in Florence.
"The last couple months, I've been struggling -- hitting the ball fairly solid, but not scoring," said Patterson, who shot 78 at Columbia Country Club this week and failed to qualify for the U.S. Amateur. "I was happy with the way I turned things around after that front nine."
Seven players with local ties are in the field, including co-leader and Hilton Head Island resident Andrew Orischak at 4 under.
Beaufort's Josh Fickes and Bluffton's Michael Balzer shot even-par 72. Former Hilton Head Island High School teacher Todd White shot 73. Bluffton's Ben Dietrich and John Patterson shot 74, while fellow Bluffton resident J.D. Hoft finished with a 76.
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.