SCJGA honors Rick Vieth

In 1995 Rick Vieth was convinced the SCGA juniors needed a Four-Ball tournament. The first SCJGA Four-Ball tournament was played at Pebble Creek. Future US Open Champion Lucas Glover teamed up with future Greenville County Amateur champion Jeremy Revis to win. (GolfClub Photo)
After an absence of a couple of years the Four-Ball tournament returned to the SCGJA schedule and was played and named in honor of the event’s founder Rick Vieth. This year Brooks De Sheilds and Blake Kelly won the championship at The Fort Club in Ninety Six. (GolfClub Photo)

Most golfers don’t play in a tournament every week. Maybe a scramble or a dog fight, but a full on tournament, not very often.

As the young South Carolina Golf Association’s Junior program began growing in the 90s the Association developed more tournaments for junior golfers.

Rick Vieth, who served on the board of the SCGA and in several other capacities, thought the tournaments were great, but the kids needed to have a fun event played the way most, non-tournament golf is played.

While the SCGA and its Junior program are rightfully proud of the number of college and professional golfers who have come through the program, adding a Four-Ball championship would give young golfers a chance to play in a format most will play the rest of their golfing lives.

“When you play with your buddies on the weekend its a Four-Ball match,” recalled Vieth. “There is a lot of golf played that way and it is what helps make golf so much fun,” he said.

So Vieth lobbied SCGA Executive Director Happ Lathrop to begin a Four- Ball Junior event and for most of its long run it was played at Pebble Creek in Taylors.

The event was named the Tradition Four-Ball.

Vieth and one of the sponsors started the tradition of putting the names of the winners on the back of a tee-shirt, which was given to the following year’s contestants.

One of Vieth’s old golfing buddies was the Old Ball Coach when he was in Columbia. Besides playing golf with Spurrier he often looped for the former USC coach at the Heritage Pro-Am.

The list of junior winners is a who’s who of junior golf in the Palmetto State. It includes more than two handfuls of top juniors who went on to be college stars and PGA or LPGA Tour players.

Past winners of the Tradition Junior Four Ball

No one may have known it at the time, but it would be hard to start a new event with a better winner than the first SCGA Traditions Four-Ball tournament did.

Future Clemson All-American and US Open champion Lucas Glover teamed up with a golfer who went on to play locally and win a bunch of tournaments including the 2002 Greenville County Amateur, Jeremy Revis.

“When we started it, the first few years we had to teach the players how to play a four-ball match. They had not experienced anything like that and there were some growing pains,” said Vieth.

But as more juniors heard about the format and realized how much fun it was to play, the tournament grew and at a few times over the years had to turn players away.

Vieth’s support of Junior Golf was appreciated by the SCJGA. Former Junior Director Chris Miller presented Vieth with a plaque recognizing the winners of the Junior Four-Ball in his name. (GolfClub Photo)

Vieth took his role as the founder seriously. He was at every tournament to greet the players and hand out awards.

One year he took charge of a boys four team playoff that went on for hours. The SCGA staff was finishing with the other divisions so Vieth jumped in hoping to beat sundown and crown a champion .

After four attempts to cut the playoff teams down, he decided there was not enough light left to play the hole so the teams battled it out in a chip off and even that took a couple of rounds before a champion was determined.

As the tournament neared the 25 year mark junior events had grown to be everywhere and almost every week.

The event didn’t have direct competition on the same date, but parents only had so many family dollars they could devote to golf and a trip from around the state to Greenville could be expensive.

Cost was a factor for some parents and golfers, but points and rankings became an even bigger problem.

“We established the event to be fun, but as points became more important it became hard to figure points for each golfer in a Four-Ball match. It got to be a pretty big issue when some of the ranking services stopped accepting points from Four-Ball matches,” said Vieth.

A combination of issues with points, Covid and finding a new host course put the event on hold for a couple of years.

After being away the SCJGA has brought back the format and included it in its Players Series of events.

The Players Series is more of a developmental program for younger golfers or golfers who may not be able to qualify (based on their golfing resume) to get into the bigger state events.

Points were not an issue this time as the event was another opportunity for the many junior golfers working their way up in the state to have a tournament.

Three generations of golfers who have enjoyed being a part of the South Carolina Golf Association were present for the first Rick Vieth Junior Four-Ball. Vieth and his wife Gayle, grandson Pete and Jeremy and Randi Revis. (GolfClub Photo)

When it was decided the event would return it was an easy decision to name it for its founder. The event appeared on the SCJGA Players Series Schedule as the Rick Vieth Junior Four-Ball Championship.

It is an honor and a tribute to a tireless worker for golf in South Carolina and especially junior golf.

Vieth has served the SCGA in several capacities over the years. He has been a director, legal council and past president of the SCGA.

Perhaps his most important work has been done on the board of the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation.

The board has directed the growth and funding of the junior game in the state and helped it reach a level of respect that has earned it recognition as best in the country a few years ago.

Vieth had been the chairman of the board, but has had to limit his activities in the past couple of years.

He was diagnosed with ALS two years ago and has been battling the disease while still being involved as much as he can in the game and the organization he loves.

At last year’s Golf Day annual SCGA meeting the Association recognized Vieth’s contributions with a special Ambassador of Golf Award. (SCGA Photo)

ALS is often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease as the Yankee Hall of Famer dealt with the disease in his playing days.

“I can’t play anymore, so the most enjoyment I get from the game is going up to The Reserve (Vieth is a member) and sitting in the Range Bar and having a drink and a cigar. We have a great men’s association there and I enjoy being with them even if I can’t play now,” he said.

Vieth maintains his schedule at his law practice in Spartanburg and is as active as he can be in and around golf.

As a criminal defense lawyer for much of his life, Vieth has always had a wry way of looking at situations to find some glimmer of light and he has done the same with his condition.

“A lot of people who get this go pretty quick and I have been able to hang around a couple of years and hope for more. We are all going to go sometime. I know this much, people have been very nice to me telling me they appreciate me and the things I have done. It kind of is like being able to hear what is being said about you at your funeral,” he joked.

Vieth was able to hand out the awards to this year’s winners of the now appropriately named Rick Vieth Junior Four-Ball being played at The Fort Club in Ninety Six.

Brooks DeShields (left) and Blake Kelly celebrate Kelly’s birdie on the final hole to win the Rick Vieth Junior Four-Ball championship at The Fort Club in Ninety Six. (GolfClub Photo)

This year Brooks DeShields and Blake Kelly teamed up to shoot an 8-under par final round and come from back in the pack to claim the win.

The two shot a 71 in the first round and didn’t think they were very competitive when the lead was held by two teams, three shots ahead of them and a few others between them and the top spot.

“We kind of beat it around the first day and after we finished I asked Brooks to look at my swing and we fixed something,”said Kelly.

In some four-ball matches one golfer has to carry the load, but the winning team split up the scoring evenly.

“We really had a pretty good day. When one of us would make a birdie the other had a par,” said DeShields.

Both golfers carded an eagle during the round to get to 7-under for the round and be tied for the lead on the final hole.

Kelly took care of making sure his team would win. His second shot on the par-4 18th ended up about 3 feet from the hole.

“I knew we would need to birdie the hole to win. There were still a lot of golfers out on the course, but I figured we would be hard to catch,” said Kelly who had to wait for five more groups to finish before he could official celebrate the win.

Blake Kelly raises his fist as his birdie putt drops in the hole on 18 to give Kelly and Brooks DeShields a 1-shot victory in the Rick Vieth Junior Four-Ball Championship. (GolfClub Photo)_

The Powdersville High School golfer (DeShields) and the Woodruff High School golfer (Kelly) finished with a second round 64 to edge out the team of Easley’s Colton Evatt and Hanna’s Jackson Scaletta by a shot.

The Junior Four-Ball had been originally scheduled for the weekend Hurricane Ian came through and the date was moved. The change affected the girls field since this weekend was the North-South All-Star Matches.

The team of Lexington High School golfers Caitlyn Gaines and Brooke Burgess claimed a four shot victory for the girls championship.

The SCJGA partnered with First Tee Upstate to host the event.

The Fort Club is in the process of joining the clubs all across the upstate that host First Tee programs teaching character education through golf.

First Tee Upstate shared in the proceeds of the tournament to help begin their program at The Fort Club as early as this spring.

Scores from the Rick Vieth Junior Four Ball Championship

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