At 45, White A Viable Walker Cup Contender

A few eyebrows were raised when 45-year-old Todd White was invited to the Walker Cup practice session held in Florida before Christmas. After all, White is not a part of the elite mid-amateur circuit, with good reason. He still thinks he can compete with the schoolboys. And his playing record backs it up. Two weeks ago, White walked into a den of college players on a very stout golf course and came away with another top-10 finish. His performance at the Jones Cup on the always difficult Ocean Forest track validates that USGA decision. Not that anyone on the International Team Selection committee is looking for validation; they know White’s record, and his invitation was earned on merit. White may well wind up playing for Captain Jim Holtgrieve next fall at the National Golf Links. White is a Spartanburg, S.C., native who is a legend in the Palmetto State. He was an All-American at Furman University, where he is a member of the Furman Athletic Hall of Fame. After winning the Northeast Amateur in 1990, he turned pro and beat it around the mini tours for almost a decade. With little to show for it, he walked away and was reinstated in 2001. Over the subsequent years, he built a very impressive résumé in the Carolinas while picking and choosing his spots nationally. He was the 2004 Carolinas Golf Association and South Carolina Player of the Year, the latter an honor he has won three times, including 2012. After taking much of 2011 off to let a left hand injury fully heal, White had a great 2012 campaign. Early in the season he posted top-10 finishes at the Azalea Amateur and the Northeast Amateur, the latter of which is a big-time schoolboy event. He was the medalist at his 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier, and advanced to the round of 32 at the Amateur at Cherry Hills in his fourth appearance. He then advanced to the semifinals in his second U.S. Mid-Amateur appearance. That body of work landed him on the Walker Cup radar screen. White is not your prototypical businessman/golfer. He is a high school history teacher in Hilton Head Island. That job offers both advantages and disadvantages for his golf game. He is free to compete all summer, but getting away for events during the academic year, like the Jones Cup, requires an understanding principal and a lot of banked vacations days. Fortunately for White, he has both. How does a mid-am like White remain competitive at the highest levels? He has a stock answer: The golf ball does not know how old you are. But that flippant answer disguises the fact that he works very hard to stay in top physical condition. And White probably would tell you that he enjoys the game more now than ever before. It’s easier to play well when you are happy. White’s Jones Cup performance was particularly impressive considering that he opened with a no-birdie, 4-over-par 76. He brought it back with an even-par 72 in the second round, and a final-round 72 in windy conditions enabled him to quietly grab a T6 finish at Ocean Forest GC in Sea Island, Ga. In so doing, he finished ahead of all but one of the 10 other Walker Cup practice session invitees on hand, almost all of whom are college players. Equally impressive is the fact that the 45-year-old White carried his own bag for all three rounds. Even the most jaded college player had to respect that. He won’t talk about it much, but you have to believe White wants to be on the team that Holtgrieve will take to Long Island in the fall. His game is well suited to the National Golf Links. His flight trajectory is a bit high, but if he can control his ball in the winter Sea Island winds, chances are he can handle the late summer Long Island breeze. Length is not critical at this venerable venue; it’s a second shot golf course that requires a deft short game, which plays right to White’s strength. And there is this intangible: his teaching background. Working with young men and women everyday just might help at some point in the Walker Cup team room with a bunch of college kids in the heat of battle. Now that the USGA will select at least two mid-ams for the team, White’s chances are pretty good. After the Jones Cup, he has the baton for one of the two mid-am spots, and he’s not going to willingly give it up. Someone is going to have to take it away from him. I will leave the final word on White to Northeast Amateur Tournament Director Denny Glass: “Todd is one of the most consistent players over a long period that I have seen. He is also the consummate gentleman, representing amateur golf at its highest level.” Seems to fit the Walker Cup selection criteria perfectly.

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