Beaufort News

Vanderbilt golfer Hunter Stewart wins Players Amateur at Berkeley Hall after rains shorten event

2013 Players Amateur winner Hunter Stewart holds his trophy.
2013 Players Amateur winner Hunter Stewart holds his trophy.

Hunter Stewart doesn't have a technical explanation for his success this year.

He has done nothing major to his swing, long since rebuilt and molded by Alabama-based instructor Ron Gring. He hasn't started a fitness regimen or changed equipment.

But the 20-year-old Vanderbilt golfer listened when fellow Commodore Brandt Snedeker, now a money machine on the PGA Tour, talked to the team early in the year. Snedeker talked about the importance of thinking around a golf course and managing pressure situations.

Stewart began plotting during tournament play. He won in March at the Samford Intercollegiate and Sunday won his first major amateur event, claiming the Players Amateur title on Berkeley Hall's South Course after rain washed out play with the final group on No. 5 green.

"I'm continuing to think differently and be a little smarter out there," Stewart said. "My game hasn't necessarily been transformed. It's been more of a mentality."

Scores reverted to 54 holes and Stewart, with a 14-under-par 202 total, edged Cal standout Michael Weaver by a stroke. Stewart earned a spot in the 2014 RBC Heritage presented by Boeing and a trophy in the likeness of Sir William Innis, symbol of the Heritage and the host Heritage Classic Foundation.

He earned a spot on an impressive list of champions, many of whom are now PGA Tour members.

Bluffton's Ben Dietrich, one of two players with local ties to make the cut, finished at 1-under 215. Hilton Head Island High School teacher Todd White finished even par after a second-round 77 derailed his chances.

Play was delayed two hours Sunday morning. Players dealt with off-and-on showers until a deluge ended the tournament, flooding greens, fairways and cartpaths as participants trudged back to the clubhouse.

The rainout was the second in as many years at Berkeley Hall, which took over as tournament host in 2012.

Weaver, the 2012 U.S. Amateur runner-up who played in the year's first two majors, hoped the weather would hold for his chance to overtake Stewart. But when he pulled into the parking lot just before 8 a.m. and saw no one on the course during his drive in, he began to worry.

Had the final group finished nine holes Sunday before weather worsened, scores would have counted through 63 holes.

"I wasn't going to go out there and try to press," Weaver said. "The worst thing would have been to think, 'Oh, we're going to play nine holes, I've got go crazy,' and then end up making a dumb mistakes, and now you've got to play the back and have no chance."

Stewart might have won the tournament with a late stretch Saturday, when his renewed focus on course management helped him avoid implosion over the final three holes.

After making his biggest number of the tournament, a double-bogey on the par-4 15th after taking an unplayable lie, Stewart played away from tough flags coming in and made a birdie on the easier par-5 17th to maintain his edge on Weaver.

He steeled himself to play 18 holes Sunday and had carded four pars before play stopped for good.

"The whole time I had to be mentally prepared to play golf," Stewart said. "I had to have the mentality today that I was going to come out and win the golf tournament."

In addition to Snedeker's advice, Stewart said he received a boost before his sophomore season with the arrival of Vanderbilt coach Scott Limbaugh, previously an assistant at Alabama. Limbaugh helped make the game more fun, Stewart said.

Stewart remembers playing Harbour Town Golf Links once, with a friend as a little kid and before he took the game seriously. He said he hopes to talk to Snedeker, the 2011 Heritage champion, before teeing it up here next April.

He's been trying to play "Brandt Snedeker golf," since their first talk.

"It's just playing with your head instead of just firing at everything and expecting to birdie every hole," Stewart said. "That's just not realistic."

The Players Amateur

Sunday, at Berkeley Hall Club, South Course, Bluffton, S.C.; Par 72

Final results

Note: Final round canceled by heavy rain

Hunter Stewart 64-68-70--202

Michael Weaver 67-67-69--203

Chase Koepka 67-70-71-208

Tom Lovelady 73-68-68--209

Bobby Wyatt 69-71-69--209

Oliver Goss 72-68-70--210

Geoff Drakeford 70-73-68--211

Sean Dale 69-69-73--211

Benjamin Taylor 69-70-72--211

Oliver Schniederjans 76-66-70--212

Matthew NeSmith 69-72-71--212

James Gibellini 72-67-73--212

Keith Mitchell 74-68-71--213

Gavin Hall 74-68-71--213

Brady Watt 70-72-71 --213

Zack Jaworski 72-69-72--213

Nick Sherwood 72-73-69--214

Tyler Dunlap 71-71-72--214

Anders Albertson 74-72-69--215

Grayson Murray 75-71-69--215

Curtis Thompson 71-73-71--215

Kevin Marsh 73-71-71--215

Ben Dietrich 72-71-72--215

Ryan McCormick 72-70-73--215

Nathan Holman 75-67-73--215

Lee McCoy 72-75-69--216

Viraat Badhwar 73-73-70--216

Todd White 69-77-70--216

Jordan Zunic 74-71-71--216

Zachary Olsen 72-71-73--216

Davin White 73-70-73--216

Nicholas Reach 73-69-74--216

Richard Lamb 71-75-71--217

Brett Drewitt 74-71-72--217

Ricardo Celia 69 -74-74--217

Ben Fogler 75-77-66--218

AJ Crouch 74-74-70--218

Tae Koh 74-73-71--218

Lucas Herbert 67-79-72--218

Stephen Powers 72-74-72--218

Richy Werenski 72-74-72--218

Aaron Wilkin 73-72-73--218