High School Sports

Hilton Head Prep grad Woodward returns to area for Players Amateur

Hilton Head Preparatory School graduate Woody Woodward chips onto No. 10 of the Berkeley Hall Club's South Course during Tuesday's practice round for the Players Amateur golf tournament.
Hilton Head Preparatory School graduate Woody Woodward chips onto No. 10 of the Berkeley Hall Club's South Course during Tuesday's practice round for the Players Amateur golf tournament. Jay Karr

Woody Woodward drove from West Virginia to arrive on Hilton Head Island on Sunday in time for an important session.

Woodward and Tim Cooke, director of instruction at Long Cove Club, worked through a last-minute primer before this week's Players Amateur at Berkeley Hall's South Course.

The relationship has become long-distance since Woodward graduated from Hilton Head Prep this spring and moved back to his native West Virginia. But the Wake Forest-bound golfer wants to maintain his relationship with Cooke, a partnership that began in early 2011.

"He's the guy who really brought my game to the next level," Woodward said. "Everybody is starting to flock to him."

During that Sunday session, Woodward noted that the drive from Winston-Salem would be shorter. He likes what he has done with Cooke, likes the communication the two share. And when he has an issue at Wake Forest, Woodward can shoot Cooke a text with a description of what's going on and the two can work it out.

The teacher knows his student's tendencies. And he will be nearby as Woodward competes in the 14th Players Amateur, his first, which starts Thursday.

"You've got to find a guy you can communicate with very well," Woodward said. "And if he can produce the right feel to try to hit the shot you want, and you can get that feel, that's the guy you've got to stick with."

Woodward first came to Cooke after overcoming shoulder problems that plagued him during his early high school years. Two surgeries in the span of a year, the last in April 2010, forced Woodward to work harder to regain his form.

Cooke created a plan for how he wanted Woodward's body to move through the swing, repeating the same motion to build consistency. Woodward built his confidence and began seeing results in tournaments. He helped Prep to the SCISAA Class 3-A state championship the following spring and earned medalist honors.

"We wouldn't change the swing thought from week to week," Cooke said. "We just stay consistent with his feels and what the concept was. So bit by bit, how he moved during the golf swing became more and more efficient."

The past eight months, Cooke and Woodward have worked to develop a shallower angle of attack, trying to create even more consistency.

Woodward's work ethic helps the lessons stick, Cooke said. And when things go south on the golf course, Woodward doesn't dwell.

"He puts as much time into it as any kid I work with," Cooke said. "He does a really nice job of blending short-game practice, full-swing practice, and goes out on the golf course and plays."

And the positive results continue.

Woodward played his way into the final group of the West Virginia Open in June before finishing eighth. He and his brother, former Penn State golfer Jay, teamed to defend their title at the West Virginia Four Ball Championship.

Woodward also has plans to play the West Virginia Amateur and hopes to qualify for the U.S. Amateur in August.

This is his first Players Amateur. He said the tournament has built a reputation based on quality champions despite being a young event, unlike the tradition-rich North & South Amateur in Pinehurst, N.C., that Woodward competed in earlier this month.

He is trying to become the first Players Amateur champion with Beaufort County ties since Mark Anderson won in 2008.

"If you look at the winners and people who have played in it, it's pretty much one of the strongest ones out there," Woodward said. "It's definitely one you want to play in."


Through Sunday, Berkeley Hall Club

Admission: Free and open to the public.

Details: www.playersam.com


Tuesday -- Practice rounds

Wednesday -- Contestant-Amateur shotgun start, 8:30 a.m.

Thursday -- First round, tee times 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Friday -- Second round, tee times 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Saturday -- Third round, tee times 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; field is cut to top 48 golfers and ties

Sunday -- Final round, tee times 7 to 9:30 a.m.