ByBRENDAN McGAIR email@example.com
EAST PROVIDENCE - How ODU's Jamison Randall landed a coveted spot in this week's Northeast Amateur Invitational can be traced back to last summer's noteworthy accomplishment on the links.
For the Cumberland High alumnus and junior-to-be at Virginia's Old Dominion University, winning the R.I. Stroke Play Championship was akin to feasting one's eyes on a golden ticket after opening a Wonka bar.
An automatic exemption to duel with some of the game's rising stars at Wannamoisett Country Club had been secured as a result of his one-shot victory over fellow Rhode Islander and Bryant University head golf coach Charlie Blanchard.
Looking at the bigger picture, or what possibly lurks down the road, didn't cross Randall's mind as he dueled Blanchard.
"Honestly, I try to keep that stuff - the stakes, what it means if I win, if I don't win - just completely out of my mind when I'm playing in tournaments. It doesn't do me any good," stated the 20-year-old Randall upon the conclusion of Tuesday's practice round.
Now that the bell is about to sound for the 52nd installment of the prestigious event, this first-time Northeast competitor can't help but feel appreciative of the opportunity awaiting him.
Officially, he will begin to reap the fruits of his Stroke Play labor when he reports to Wannamoissett's 10th hole for his 12:08 p.m. tee time on Wednesday, Day 1 of this four-day event.
"It's a fantastic honor to play in this tournament. I couldn't be more happy to be here," Randall expressed. "It's probably the best tournament I'll ever have played in. It'll definitely be a challenge, but a fun experience at the same time. I'm looking forward to all of it." *** Randall returns home after a sophomore collegiate season that saw him ride a tidal wave of good scores, and other rounds he probably quickly filed away.
He kicked off the fall portion of the 2012-13 schedule for ODU with a 54-hole victory at the Raines Development Intercollegiate Championship. Firing under par each of the three days, Randall tamed the Country Club of South Carolina to the tune of a superb minus-seven 209.
The spring saw Randall post two top 20 finishes and close out the year with a tie for 44th at the Conference USA Championships.
"I really had an up-and-down sophomore year. It went as far up as it can go and then went pretty much as far down as it can go," summed up Randall. "I've found college golf can be very difficult. It's difficult to keep your focus and keep your energy, especially on 36-hole days." *** One thing that Randall isn't this week is unprepared. The 2011 R.I. Interscholastic League individual golf champion got in a 27-hole practice round Monday and followed up with a 15-hole session on Tuesday morning.
While getting a handle on putting surfaces' slopes and ridges has always been the key to unlocking Northeast Amateur glory, Randall stepped on a patch of thick grass to prove a point.
"I feel like I've gotten used to what the fairway and rough conditions are going to be like," said Randall.
Another potential ace up Randall's sleeve is one-time Wannamoisett caddy and Seekonk native Jeff Dantas, who has been entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the ex-Clipper's bag this week. Dantas is Randall's personal instructor.
"Jeff knows this course very, very well, and I'm very lucky to have him on the bag this week," noted Randall. "I have a definite feeling that he's going to help me out a lot."
If Randall needs any reminders about the makeup of the Northeast's field, all he has to do is look over his playing partner for the next two days. University of Virginia product Denny McCarthy is also heading into his junior year.
He placed 22nd at the recent NCAA Championships after bursting on the season as a freshman where he earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors and qualified for the 2012 U.S. Amateur.
"I've kept up-to-date," smiled Randall when the conversation shifted toward the competition. "It's a very strong field, but at the same time, I don't think it's anything that's too far above what I am right now. I know that I can compete with these guys and as long as I just bring my game, be myself and do what I know I can do ...
"It's up for grabs in my opinion," Randall continued. "Obviously, I'm not looking at winning, but I'm looking at competing and making a statement by saying, `Hey, I can play with these guys.'"
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03