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Hunter Stewart ready to defend Players Amateur title at Berkeley Hall

Amateur Hunter Stewart, shown during the first round of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2 on June 12, 2014, will defend his Players Amateur title
Amateur Hunter Stewart, shown during the first round of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2 on June 12, 2014, will defend his Players Amateur title
Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Hunter Stewart finished his Players Amateur contestant-amateur round Wednesday and glanced up at the Vanderbilt flag flying over the first tee at Berkeley Hall Golf Club in Bluffton, S.C., just off Hilton Head Island. The college golfer knew the flag was flying to recognize his victory in last year’s tournament. The sight brought a smile to his face.

On a hot South Carolina day the Kentucky native was relaxed but ready to take on the field when tournament play begins Thursday morning. Although he did not win on Wednesday, he said he really enjoyed spending time with his contestant-amateur playing partner Greg Voetsch, father of Stewart’s Vanderbilt teammate John Voetsch.

With practice rounds and preliminary events out of the way, the golfers are ready to hit the course in the amateur tournament known for its southern hospitality and a great venue. There has never been a repeat winner at the Players Am and Stewart would like to change that when play ends Sunday.

The Players Amateur draws top players from colleges around the country along with international players and this year’s field is no exception. Past champions include Bill Haas, Rickie Fowler, Ben Curtis, Bud Cauley, Brian Harman and Camilo Villegas. Australian Daniel Nisbet was the 2012 winner.

Stewart’s victory in the 2013 rain-shortened Players Amateur gave him an exemption into the PGA TOUR RBC Heritage golf tournament on Hilton Head Island where he played with professional Mark Anderson, winner of the 2008 Players Am. Both the professional and amateur tournaments are administered by the Heritage Classic Foundation.

Hilton Head High School sophomore Andrew Orischak and his playing partner Bob Linman won Wednesday’s Contestant Amateur Tournament. Coming in second was University of Georgia golfer Michael Cromie and his partner Doug Willet. The third-place finishers were Australian amateur Anthony Murdaca and Gene Schraeder.

Play begins Thursday at 7:15 at Berkeley Hall, located off Highway 278 in Bluffton. There is no charge to watch the tournament.