125 Years of Golf in America: South Carolina May 29, 2019

The USGA was founded on Dec. 22, 1894. With the 125th anniversary coming at the end of 2019, every week throughout the year we're highlighting how all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, make the game we all love a great one in the United States. 

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Watch: Two-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion and World Golf Hall of Famer Beth Daniel on golf in the Palmetto State

Furman Women’s Golf: The Palmetto State’s First College Juggernaut

By Joey Flyntz, USGA

2017 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball champs Alice Chen (left) and Taylor Totland are the latest USGA champs from Furman. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Long before Clemson became a football behemoth and the University of South Carolina put itself on the national map with its powerhouse baseball program, a small private university in Greenville with an enrollment a tad more than 2,000 students built a college dynasty of its own in the Palmetto State.

Furman University has a proud golf tradition that rivals many schools with considerably more resources.

On the men’s side, Bruce Fleisher became the first player from a South Carolina college to win a USGA championship, earning the 1968 U.S. Amateur title at Scioto Country Club. He later won the 2001 U.S. Senior Open. Although he doesn’t own a USGA title, Brad Faxon might be the program’s best known player. The Rhode Island native enrolled at Furman in 1979, was a member of the victorious 1983 USA Walker Cup Team and later enjoyed a long, fruitful career on the PGA Tour – he won eight Tour events – and a current role as a golf analyst for Fox.

But with this being U.S. Women’s Open week in Charleston, the women’s program’s illustrious history is in the spotlight. It’s only fitting considering one of the program’s greats, Beth Daniel, is a Charleston native and honorary chair for the championship at Country Club of Charleston.

When thinking about the current giants of women’s college golf, Furman probably doesn’t come to mind immediately. But the program has held its own through the years, especially in the early years after the passage of Title IX.

Furman first competed in women’s golf in 1972, 10 years before the NCAA began sanctioning women’s sports. And the Lady Palladins wasted no time establishing themselves as a powerhouse. By 1976, the program had recruited one of the most impressive collections of women’s golf talent in the sport’s history. Among the players on the roster: the aforementioned Daniel, Betsy King, Sherri Turner and Cindy Ferro.

After finishing fifth nationally the year prior, the 1976 team won the national title in East Lansing, Mich., which was then governed by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). That team is still widely considered one of the best of all time.

USGA CHAMPIONS FROM SOUTH CAROLINA COLLEGES
NAME COLLEGE USGA CHAMPIONSHIP WON
Alice Chen Furman 2017 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball
Beth Daniel Furman 1975 & 1977 U.S. Women's Amateur
Bruce Fleisher Furman 1968 U.S. Amateur; 2001 U.S. Senior Open
Lucas Glover Clemson 2009 U.S. Open
Dustin Johnson Coastal Carolina 2016 U.S. Open
Kevin Johnson Clemson 1987 U.S. Amateur Public Links
Betsy King Furman 1989 & 1990 U.S. Women's Open
Corbin Mills Clemson 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links
Chris Patton Clemson 1989 U.S. Amateur
Brett Quigley University of South Carolina 1987 U.S. Junior Amateur
Doc Redman Clemson 2017 U.S. Amateur
Taylor Totland Furman 2017 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball
D.J. Trahan Clemson 2000 U.S. Amateur Public Links
Todd White Furman 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

Daniel, King, Ferro and Turner all went on to successful pro careers, but not before completing their decorated amateur years. Daniel led the way, claiming the 1975 and 1977 U.S. Women’s Amateurs en route to earning spots on the 1976 and 1978 USA Curtis Cup Teams. King finished eighth and earned low-amateur honors in the 1978 U.S. Women’s Open. Turner was a first-team All-American in 1979.

King is one of the best players in women’s golf history, having won six majors, highlighted by back-to-back U.S. Women’s Open titles in 1989-1990. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1995. Daniel won 33 LPGA Tour events, was the Tour rookie of the year in 1979, won the 1990 LPGA Championship (now the Women’s PGA Championship) and twice finished runner-up in the U.S. Women’s Open (1981 and 1982). She joined King in the Hall of Fame in 2000. Turner won the 1988 Women’s PGA Championship and was the Tour’s money winner that year.

Shortly after that group left, Dottie Pepper signed on to continue the Furman tradition. Pepper led the Lady Palladins to three top-five national finishes, played on the 1986 USA Curtis Cup Team, then won two major championships (1992 and 1999 Nabisco Dinah Shore, now the ANA Inspiration) as a professional before injuries forced her to pivot to a successful and ongoing broadcasting career.

When the men’s program was fighting financial difficulties and close to being eliminated by the school in 2014, Faxon and longtime Country Club of Charleston member and past U.S. Senior Amateur semifinalist Frank Ford III were among those who stepped in to help save it. Today, the program has a $2.7 million endowment fund.

Furman has remained competitive nationally and the school boasts three USGA champions within the past four years. Todd White, one of the best mid-amateurs in the world and a member of the victorious 2013 USA Walker Cup Team, paired with Nathan Smith to win the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in 2015 at The Olympic Club.

In 2017, Furman teammates Alice Chen and Taylor Totland teamed up to write a storybook finish at The Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach, winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

“We get to represent Furman together in the home state,” said Chen after the 2017 win. “So, I don't think you could have written up a better story. And to be co-medalists and then fight it out to win, that's pretty much as good as it gets.”

For Furman golf, though, there are more stories yet to be written.

Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at jflyntz@usga.org.