Some 750 people attended the U.S. Junior Amateur Players' Dinner aboard the USS John C. Stennis on Sunday night. Despite a drizzling rain, the event was a major success. Players, USGA officials, volunteers and other invited guests thoroughly enjoyed being on the 1,092-foot nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Approximately 110 players out of the 156-player field took advantage of the free tour of the vessel, which included the hangar, flight deck and portions of the bridge. "Cool" was definitely the word of the night from most of the players, and it had nothing to do with the cool temperatures.
Admiral Craig S. Faller, Commander of Carrier Strike Group Three, drew a standing ovation following his inspirational speech. You almost wanted to enlist in the Navy. The Stennis departs Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, Wash., on July 23 for a six- to eight-month tour of the Persian Gulf to provide support for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Guest speaker Johnny Miller also was outstanding. He even choked up when talking about how much his parents supported him, both on and off the course. Miller also was humorous and informative as he recounted stories about fellow players and his golf accomplishments, including victories at the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and 1973 U.S. Open when he carded a final-round 63 to win by one stroke at Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh.
All the players were sharply dressed in jackets and ties, and Cody Proveaux went one step further by donning a pair of wild orange pants with the Clemson University logo. Proveaux plans to play for the Tigers in the fall of 2012, and has grown close to recent U.S. Amateur Public Links winner Corbin Mills.
The event ended a little after 8 p.m., giving players a chance to get back to their hotels or host families for a good night's rest. The championship begins today with the first of two stroke-play qualifying rounds at Gold Mountain Golf Club's Olympic Course.