By STEVE HANF
Steven Brame left his truck in Winston-Salem but returned home to Henderson with a nice consolation prize: his first tournament win at the 53rd North Carolina Amateur Championship of the Carolinas Golf Association.
Brame tamed the Forsyth Country Club course with an 11-under total of 273, good for a one-shot win over Concord’s Trevor Cone and Charlotte’s Bailey Patrick Jr. But the club bit back: During a storm delay in the first round on June 13, Brame’s truck was smashed by a tree in the parking lot.
As players conversed inside the clubhouse about the storm – which included wind gusts as fast as 58 mph – someone said a tree in the parking lot had fallen … on a silver Chevy Silverado parked by the pool.
“I didn’t say anything – just walked outside,” Brame said. “When I turned the corner and saw the tree laying on my truck: disappointment, disgust, anger. I was pretty upset. I talked to a cop, they’re working on getting the tree off my truck, then they tell us they’re gonna send us back on the golf course at 7.”
Brame had been at 1-under-par through nine holes and actually managed to complete six more before darkness, finishing at 2-under.
“The golf helped me not think about the truck,” Brame said. “I don’t know whether it’s karma or what.”
After getting over the initial shock, there was plenty of positive spin to put on the situation. Brame’s wife, Hillary, had called him Thursday evening with good news about winning a vacation. Upon hearing about the truck mishap, she reminded her husband that big events always happen in threes.
Brame’s father, Craig, helped with the insurance end of things while Steven played golf Friday. And a competitor – Reeves Zaytoun of Raleigh – even picked up Brame at 6 a.m. to get him to the course on time.
“That was very cool and generous of him,” Brame said. “That says a lot for the type of people you have playing in these championships.”
Brame finished his first round early Friday with a 1-under 70 on the 6,731-yard layout, and his second-round 68 had him just two shots behind Southern Pines’ Michael McGowan.
Saturday’s third round saw Brame record six birdies and just one bogey for a 5-under 66. His 9-under score for the tournament had him one shot ahead of defending champion Matthew Crenshaw of Burlington and Gastonia’s Victor Wiggins. Sunday, the pressure was on.
“My first tee shot of the day was probably one of the most nerve-wracking tee shots I’ve ever had to hit,” Brame said. “I’ve never experienced it before. I hope I’m there many more times.”
Brame’s plan was to shoot even-par and be content with where that left him at the end of the day. A bogey at nine left him tied with Wiggins, while Brame’s birdie at 10 and Wiggins’ birdie at 12 had them even again. Brame added another birdie at 13, and with Wiggins’ bogey, thought he had a two-shot lead. That’s when his dad mentioned that Patrick was in the midst of a final-round 64 and Cone also was only a shot behind.
Brame stuck with his par plan and got it done with short putts on 16 and 17. On the par-4 18th, his second shot was pulled into the rough beyond the pin in the back left corner of the green. He had a decent lie on an uphill slope with about five feet of green to work with – and knew he had to get up-and-down to win.
“I played a three-quarter swing flop shot and I hit it perfect,” Brame said. “It landed six to eight inches on the green and rolled up two and a half feet from the cup and I knocked the putt in.”
That gave the 30-year-old Xerox copier distributor his first CGA win. Brame enjoyed some tournament victories while a member of the Cape Fear Community College golf team, but nothing like this. His previous best in major events had been a sixth-place showing last year at the Eastern Amateur.
“This is a tournament I’ve loved playing and it means a lot for my name to go on this trophy with some of the well-known names stamped on this thing,” Brame said.
Crenshaw and Wiggins tied for fourth place at 8-under. McGowan landed in sixth place at 6-under, while Reidsville’s Payne McLeod and Dobson’s Taylor Coalson were tied for seventh at 5-under.
Scott Harvey, the state’s top ranked player, skipped the event in favor of the Sunnehanna Amateur in Pennsylvania, where he tied for 29th.