On a glorious Friday afternoon in September 2013, Todd White thought he had reached the pinnacle of amateur golf. At age 45, the humble high school teacher from South Carolina was introduced as a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team.
The margin between his numerous accomplishments in the game and that career highlight just narrowed a bit.
Just days before the 49th Walker Cup match in St. Andrews, Scotland, last week, 4,885 miles to the west at Martis Camp Club in Truckee, California, White defeated another former Walker Cupper, Ireland’s Jody Fanagan, 4 and 3, to capture the U.S. Senior Amateur in his first year of eligibility. White, now 55, did it in grand style, winning the qualifying medal and then six grueling matches – including 19-hole and 21-hole victories – over four days.
When asked how the Senior Amateur win compares to the Walker Cup, White did not hesitate. “There is nothing like the Walker Cup,” he said. “The spirit of what the Walker Cup embodies is so important to me. All USGA championships are important, but the Walker Cup is a cut above.”
“Hopefully it’s something that I can take back with me into my career in the classroom and show the students that hard work does pay off, and nothing is given to you.. ... You have to earn it.”
The 2013 match was contested at the legendary National Golf Links on Long Island. White was one of two mid-amateurs on captain Jim Holtgrieve’s squad, alongside Nathan Smith, a veteran of two previous Walker Cups. Other teammates included future PGA Tour stars Max Homa and Justin Thomas.
The American team defeated Great Britain and Ireland, 17-9. White played in three of four sessions, losing the two foursomes matches but winning his singles match on Sunday afternoon.
The U.S. Senior Amateur was the second USGA title for White in his 35th USGA appearance. He partnered with former Walker Cup teammate Smith to win the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in 2015.
In his prime, White was a regular contender in the summer elite amateur schedule, mixing it up with the collegians and more than holding his own. In the Carolinas, he won everything worth winning, sometimes more than once. This summer, in his lone competitive outing, he won the South Carolina Amateur, 33 years after he won it the first time following an outstanding collegiate career at Furman.
After closing out the final match at Martis Camp, White fought through emotions to put this victory into perspective.
“At this point in time … words fail me,” he told the USGA. “I sit here and I look at all the hard work that’s gone into it over the course of my life, and it's just incredible validation of that work.”
After missing seven days of school, he was eager to board a red-eye flight and be back in the classroom Friday morning at Spartanburg High School, where he teaches social studies and coaches the golf teams.
“Hopefully it's something that I can take back with me into my career in the classroom and show the students that hard work does pay off, and nothing is given to you,” he said. “You have to earn it. I feel like that's what I've done here this week is, I've earned it.”
What more could a parent want from an educator for his or her child?
Top: Todd White
jeff haynes, usga