By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Clay Homan’s quest to defend his title this week at the Mississippi Golf Association’s State Amateur Championship could be hampered by his unfamiliarity with the course – Grand Bear in Saucier – and his lack of playing time this spring.
Homan, whose Mississippi State coaching duties limit his play, has overcome that obstacle to win back-to-back state titles.
“It’s always a challenge to get my game in shape for the State Am,” he said. “I played in a 4-ball this weekend and saw how rusty I really was.”
Homan knew the courses – Old Waverly (2011) and Reunion (2012) – where he won his championships. However, playing Grand Bear, a 7,000-yard Jack Nicklaus-designed course, is another matter.
“The last two years I was familiar with the courses,” Homan said. “I knew where to miss it on those two and still be able to salvage some pars.
“I don’t know Grand Bear well at all.”
Don Hershfelt, an MGA official from Tupelo, says the course is your “normal” Nicklaus layout – “ … Big fairways, great bunkers, large greens with some undulation.”
Homan, a Fulton native, and a 144-player field of the state’s top amateur golfers tee off Thursday in the 98th annual stroke-play tournament. The field will be cut to low 60 and ties following Friday’s second round.
Tupelo’s Fletcher Johnson, the 2010 State Amateur champion, joins Homan as one of the 23 Northeast Mississippi qualifiers for the tournament. Johnson is a member of Homan’s MSU golf team.
One notable absentee is another of Homan’s pupils, Fulton’s Chad Ramey. The Bulldogs’ All-SEC selection is skipping this week’s event to prepare for next week’s prestigious Sunnehanna Tournament in Johnstown, Penn.
Another MSU golfer, Okolona’s Barrett Edens, is expected to contend this weekend. He tied for 30th overall in the NCAA Baton Rouge regional and was fifth overall in April’s Old Waverly Invitational.
Homan says Southern Miss golfer Kevin Brady and Ole Miss signee Jacob Ross add to the strong college lineup.
“It’s just another golf tournament for the college players,” said Homan, a four-time State Am champion with his first two wins in 1994 and 2005. “They play a lot of golf.”
The key to winning, Homan, is to be patient and have that one great round. He posted a 64 last year and remained around par the other three days to win.
“It’s a marathon, you have to pace yourself to win,” he said.