Birmingham might not be able to match the sports cachet of big professional towns such as Boston, New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, but Alabama’s largest city certainly is holding its share of major events over the next few months.
The PGA Tour Champions’ first major of the season, the Regions Tradition, concludes this weekend, and the reincarnation of the United States Football League is entering Week 5, with every game of the eight-team league being contested at either historic Legion Field or brand-new Protective Stadium. The Southeastern Conference’s annual baseball championship is coming to neighboring Hoover May 24-29, and the World Games, featuring 206 events and 17 invitationals for sports that aren’t featured in the Olympic Games, will be staged over an 11-day period in July.
Not only that, the USGA is conducting its U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship here. The Country Club of Birmingham, the site of two previous USGA competitions, is hosting the seventh edition of this highly popular event. Each of the 128 sides (256 players) will play stroke-play rounds on the club’s East and West courses this weekend before the field is cut to the top 32 tandems for match play, which begins on Monday. The 18-hole final is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
While defending champions Kiko Francisco Coelho and Leopoldo Herrera III opted not to return, two past champion sides are in the field: inaugural winners Nathan Smith and Todd White, and 2019 titlists Scott Harvey and Todd Mitchell.
As these talented sides tackle the challenging Donald Ross designs, here are 3 Things to Know:
Evan Beck is hoping that the good vibes he had in this area 14 years ago will return. The Virginia Beach, Va., native had his greatest run as a golfer at Shoal Creek, about 15 miles from Country Club of Birmingham, advancing to the championship match of the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur. En route to the 36-hole final, which he lost to Cameron Peck, of Olympia, Wash., Beck eliminated Jordan Spieth in the semifinals. Spieth would win two of the three succeeding U.S. Juniors to join Tiger Woods as the only multiple winners of the event, before starting a professional career that includes three major titles, including the 2015 U.S. Open.
Beck, a reinstated amateur, is paired with former Wake Forest associate head coach Dan Walters. Walters coached Beck when he played for the Demon Deacons from 2009-13.
Beck isn’t the only one enjoying a homecoming this week.
Steven Groover, of Birmingham, and partner M. Tyler McKeever, of Atlanta, played at Auburn University. Another Auburn alum, Clay Guerin, of Hoover, Ala., and his partner, Ty Cole, of Albertville, Ala., have the honor of hitting the championship’s first ball on the West Course, while two Alabama teens, Ward Harris, 17, of Vestavia Hills, and Jackson Mitchell, 17, of Athens, will be the first to tee off on the East Course.
Golf is one of the few sports that allow a father and son to compete in the same event, and for the third time, Nebraska natives John (age 66) and Andrew Sajevic (31) will tee it up in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball. John, an auto salesman, has played in 12 USGA championships, including the 1996 U.S. Amateur. Andrew, a banker who played at the University of North Carolina, is a veteran of eight USGA championships, including three U.S. Amateurs. He is a four-time Nebraska Amateur champion. The duo advanced to match play in both of their previous appearances (2015 and 2019).
They aren’t the only tandem celebrating Father’s Day a few weeks early. Brad Wayment, 56, and his 24-year-old son, Cooper, both of Mesa, Ariz., will make their first start. Brad, a Brigham Young University graduate, qualified for the 2018 U.S. Senior Open and 2021 U.S. Senior Amateur. Cooper, who graduated this month from Utah State, is competing in his first USGA event.
Besides the two father/son sides, there are six brother tandems: Sam and Will Bernstein; Jay and Woody Woodward; Dean and Reed Greyersman; Daniel and Tim Murphy; Evan and Travis Russell; and Trey and Tyler Diehl.
Jesse Galvon is quite fortunate to still be playing golf. Six years ago, he flew to the San Francisco Bay area for the wedding of his University of San Francisco golf teammate and four-ball partner Domingo Jojola. During a golf outing, Galvon drove his cart a little too fast over a hill. The cart flipped and landed on his leg. Jojola and his uncle managed to get the cart off Galvon’s leg, but significant damage had been done.
When Galvon flew home to Calgary, Alberta, doctors discovered a blood clot that took two weeks to heal. Galvon set a goal of qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball with Jojola, a left-hander who was a longtime junior merit member at Lake Merced Golf Club. In 2014, Jojola caddied for Lydia Ko when she won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Tour event at Lake Merced.
Galvon flew down to Sacramento and the two made the field in a playoff. They have now qualified for the championship in three of their five attempts (2018, 2020, 2022).
And since it’s a walking-only competition, Galvon needn’t worry about any golf cart incidents.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.