Homan's simple defense strategy: make putts

Clay Homan’s strategy for winning this week’s 97th Mississippi State Amateur golf tournament is no different than any other player’s in the 144-man field.
“It’s just a matter of going out, executing and making some putts,” said the Fulton native, Mississippi State University golf coach and defending state amateur champion.
The four-day, 72-hole tournament starts today at the spacious – 7,000-yard – Reunion Golf and Country Club in Madison. The course’s hybrid bermuda grass greens are firm and extremely fast.
“You have to do a good job on the greens,” Homan said. “You can’t be above the hole. That’s when course management comes into play. You have to know where you can miss.”
Tupelo’s Don Hershfelt, an official with the Mississippi Golf Association, was in charge of setting up the course for this week’s play.
“It’s a long course with plenty of room,” he said. “There are a whole lot of bunkers on the fairways and green side. The greens are large and very fast.”
Homan, 40, made plenty of putts down the stretch last year to win in a one-hole playoff against one of his MSU golfers – Houston’s Alex Rowland – at Old Waverly in West Point. It was Homan’s third state amateur championship after victories in 1994 and 2005.
Rowland, a recent graduate, and another MSU golfer, Fulton’s Chad Ramey, are entered and expected to challenge for the championship. Ramey placed fifth last year.
Of the 144 players in the field, 37 have ties to Northeast Mississippi, including Wilson Reeder, Kirk Reeder, Hayden Solomon and Noah West from Tupelo High School’s 6A state championship team.
Fletcher Johnson, the 2010 state amateur champion from Tupelo, is also in the field and playing in Homan’s group today.
Homan believes the younger players have an advantage because they’ve been able to play a lot this spring. Homan’s played only 10 rounds this year.
“These guys have been playing since January,” he said. “I’m not going to be as sharp as the college players.
“I’m going to have to use my wisdom a little more,” he added, then laughed.
gene.phelps@journalinc.com