Columbia County has always had solid baseball and golf programs. That means summertime is usually when our area athletes shine, and that is exactly what has happened recently.
Here is a look at some current and former county standouts who have recently posted noteworthy performances.
Carter Newman (Evans/home school)
The rising senior on the Augusta State University national championship golf team is riding a huge confidence wave right now. Not only did he come through with two huge match play wins versus Georgia Tech and Florida State to help ASU claim the NCAA title, but now he has won a prestigious summer amateur event.
Newman fired a final round 4-under 68 to get into a playoff at the 38th annual Rice Planters Amateur Championship. Newman went on to defeat J. Fernandez Valdes on the fifth playoff hole. Newman posted rounds of 71, 69, 68 and 68 to finish 12-under for the event, played in Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Austin Vick (Greenbrier)
Vick was part of the Greenbrier golf team that nearly won the Class AAAAA state title, and he has played some terrific golf this summer. Vick will now get a chance to perform on the national stage when he tees it up later this month in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
In a field just shy of 100 players, Vick managed to claim one of only five qualifying spots up for grabs by carding rounds of 71-72 (143) at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw, Ga. His 143 two-day total was good enough for a second-place finish in the qualifier. Vick will play in the U.S. Junior Championship on July 19-24 at Egypt Valley Golf Club in Ada, Mich.
Jeff Rowland (Greenbrier)
The former Greenbrier and Georgia Tech baseball star was drafted earlier this month by the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers started Rowland in rookie ball in the NY-Penn League.
Well, he spent only 11 games there before getting a promotion. The talented center fielder was called up to Single-A West Michigan this past week. Through 11 games in the NY-Penn League, Rowland hit safely in all 11 games and boasted a .341 average.
Nolan Belcher (Greenbrier)
While his role was smaller this season than his terrific freshman campaign a year ago, the southpaw pitcher is a national champion.
Belcher, a rising senior, went 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA for the Gamecocks this season and was in the dugout in Omaha, Neb., when the University of South Carolina's Whit Merrifield singled in the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over UCLA in Game 2 of the College World Series.
The hit gave the Gamecocks their first NCAA title, as they swept UCLA in two games.
So congratulations to Belcher and his Gamecock teammates on claiming college baseball's ultimate prize.
Finally, I would like to send my condolences to former Evans baseball star Todd Greene, his brother Tommy and his mom Sue. I got word while on vacation last weekend that Todd's dad lost his long battle with cancer.
I recently wrote a column about Charlie Greene, detailing his influence on local athletes and how much he meant to many of us who grew up playing sports in the county.
Mr. Greene was loved by those who knew him, and will be sorely missed.
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