Playing in national-level golf tournaments isn’t a new experience for Steve Harwell, who’s been one of North Carolina’s top amateur golfers for more than 30 years.
However, it’s something relatively new for William Gordon, who’s young enough to be Harwell’s son.
Harwell and Gordon will be partners in the United States Golf Association’s newest national championship tournament.
Harwell, 52, and the 18-year-old Gordon qualified for next month’s inaugural USGA U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships, scheduled for May 2-6 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
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Just call them the “Odd Couple.”
“We just hit it off,” Harwell, of Mooresville, said of his younger partner, a senior at Cannon School in Concord. “He’s a great player and I enjoy playing with the younger kids. We get along good, had a good time and played well. We just decided to do this.”
Harwell and Davidson resident Gordon, both members of River Run Country Club, qualified for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships by winning a sectional tournament at Pinehurst’s Pinewild Country Club on March 23.
There, Harwell and Gordon combined for a 9-under-par 62, finishing four strokes ahead of the other two qualifiers – Charlotte teenagers Henry Shimp and Nolan Mills, both members of Myers Park High’s boys golf team; and Sherrill Britt of West End and Greensboro’s Greg Earnhardt – who came out on top in a one-hole playoff with William Biestek of Middletown, Conn., and High Point’s Michael O’Conner.
This was just the second tournament Harwell and Gordon had played in as teammates, and the first since pairing up for a best-ball tournament at the Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte more than 18 months ago.
“He invited me to play in the Carolina Invitational,” Gordon said. “We played in that tournament and did pretty well. When this (the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships) came up, we decided to try for it.”
In four-ball tournaments, each player on the two-player team plays their own ball over the 18 holes, with the best individual score on each hole going towards the team’s overall score.
“I’ve kind of been consistent all my life, and with William, he’s an excellent player, a proven player,” said Harwell, an All-American with Guilford in the mid-1980s who was named to the school’s athletics Hall of Fame in 2006. “It kind of gives the both of us a relaxed feeling to know that we’re both going to be in the hole. If one of us gets in a hole, the other one is fully capable of getting us out of it.”
This will be the 16th USGA national championship tournament Harwell has qualified for, and just the second for Gordon, a Vanderbilt signee who has been among the state’s top junior golfers the past two years.
“Knowing how much he’s played and how much he’s gone through playing in different types of tournaments, that experience can rub off on me,” Gordon said. “It’s a feeling of comfort knowing I can go out and play my game, and he’s there to back me up.”
Said Harwell: “Every USGA event gets your blood flowing. It excites you to play, because that’s like the pinnacle of golf to be able to do that. To be in the first one and go out to Olympic, and to have a partner like Will, we’re both excited to be able to do this.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.