Response to a new early-bird special has given organizers of the 29th annual Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship hope that participation in the event will exceed 3,100 players for the first time in four years.
Approximately 2,800 players are registered for the Aug. 27-31 tournament, an increase of 13.5 percent over this time last year.
The event will be played on 60 Grand Strand courses and already features golfers from all 50 states and 25 countries. Participation has hovered between 3,000 and 3,100 players for the past three years. Though more than 3,000 were registered last year, about 150 couldn’t make the trip because of Hurricane Irene.
“I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but it looks like if we’re able to continue [registration] trends of recent years, we should definitely eclipse 3,000,” new tournament director Jeff Monday said. “Our hope this year is to get it closer to 3,200 to get the trend going back up.”
Organizers created a new two-week early-bird special that ran in April, offering a $425 entry fee – which is $125 off the regular price – and promoted it through emails and the coordinated it with the launch of the tournament’s reworked website. The promotion attracted 2,200 players.
“We put a little urgency on it and gave them a two-week window to sign up, and they did,” Monday said. “We ended up quite ahead of the game from where we were last year and previous years.”
The regular early registration special of $475 ended Thursday, and registration is now $550.
Participation in the tournament peaked at more than 5,000 players in 2000, but dropped to fewer than 3,100 in 2009 after it held steady between 3,500 and 3,900 players from 2003-08.
“We’d all want to see larger numbers, and you look back in time and see numbers in the 4,000s and we’d all like to get there,” Golf Holiday president Bill Golden said. “But the world’s different. A lot has changed since then. The fact remains that it’s still the largest single-site amateur tournament in the world. It’s still a big event for us.
“But clearly we need to grow it somehow and continue to tinker with it and find new marketing angles, new ways to tweak the event to perhaps find new participants and get it marching back up over 3,000.”
Players receive four tournament rounds with the possibility of a fifth, and four nights of the 19th Hole cocktail party at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for players and a guest.
All participants receive a gift bag including a high-performance embroidered Oxford Golf shirt, $50 gift card to PGA Tour Superstore, Surino performance golf socks, and logoed tumbler, hat and bag tag. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes, including approximately $100,000 combined for daily contest winners and the top five players in each of about 70 flights.
Oxford Golf, which is represented on the PGA Tour by David Toms, is a new sponsor this year, and will be selling merchandise on-site in the vendor pavilion.
The World Am doubles as a U.S. qualifier for the International Pairs Championship, with the winners going to Scotland for the finals in 2013, and the Cory Lemke Parent-Child competition is a tournament within the tournament.
Players with handicaps as low as 3 and as high as 34 have won the World Am. Registration is available at worldamgolf.com.
New day at MBGH
Monday is replacing Dave Macpherson as the Golf Holiday and World Am tournament director. Macpherson accepted a job overseeing sales for Golfnet.com, which has interactive golf software for golf associations and golfers.
Monday, 29, has been with Golf Holiday for 15 months. He has served as an accountant for the events division, among other duties, and as the 2011 World Am handicap chairman. “That was an interesting experience,” Monday said.
Monday earned a business management degree from Coastal Carolina in 2005, handled mutual fund investments for Vanguard in Charlotte, N.C., for a couple years, and spent a few years as a golf director for the Myrtle Beach Golf Wizard package company before joining Golf Holiday.
Hall seeks nominees
The 2012 induction ceremony for the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame is planned for Sunday, Aug. 26, at Pine Lakes Country Club, and the hall’s board of directors is accepting nominations through July 2.
The hall was founded in 2009 and is housed at the Pine Lakes Hall of Fame Garden behind the course’s clubhouse.
To submit a nomination, use the online form at www.themyrtlebeachgolfhalloffame.com. Nominations will be accepted under nine different categories: architect, golf professional, instructor, manager, owner, promoter, superintendent, writer (media) or volunteer.
The completed form should be sent to Charlotte Hearn at National Golf Management via email at email@example.com or by fax to 843-282-8999.
The hall’s board will consider all nominations. There are 10 members of the hall, with 2009 charter members Clay Brittain, Cecil Brandon, Carolyn Cudone, Jimmy D’Angelo, General James Hackler and Robert White, 2010 inductees George W. “Buster” Bryan and Gary Schaal, and 2011 inductees Charles Byers and Paul Himmelsbach.
Renovations to greens at Palmetto Greens Golf & Country Club were done last week, and the course reopened Saturday to host a full field charity tournament for a young girl with cancer.
The 6,427-yard course was closed for five days last week to complete the changing of greens from bentgrass to TifDwarf Bermuda two summers ago. Seven greens were converted in 2010 and 11 greens were done last week.
New Life Turf of Orangeburg sodded the 11 greens. Palmetto Greens general manager Philippe Bureau said defects in greens were repaired, including depressions where water was collecting and mowing was difficult, and several greens were reshaped, adding undulation to relatively flat greens and minimizing it in cases where pin placements were severely limited or mounding was causing mowers to scalp the grass.
Some areas on the seven previously changed greens were resodded as well. “We reshaped them to provide better putting conditions year-round,” Bureau said. “So the golf course is like brand new.”
A full-length driving range was recently built near Palmetto Green’s eighth and ninth holes.
Anthony Gardner of Myrtle Beach won the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy Junior Shootout on Sunday at Grande Dunes Resort Course.
Gardner won the boys 15-18 division in a playoff over Charleston’s Robert Ferira after both shot 6-over 150s. Gardner closed with a 72, the best round in the boys 15-18 division, which featured 54 of the tournament’s 83 players.
Kohler Karavan of Myrtle Beach finished second in the boys 11-14 division by a shot to States Ford of Evans, Ga., with an even-par 74-70—144, and Pendleton Bogache of Myrtle Beach was the runner-up in the girls 15-18 division, shooting a 14-over 82-76—158 to finish two strokes behind Ann Elizabeth Gore of Lexington.
The Hurricane Tour holds tournaments across the Southeast and is scheduled to return to the Strand for the Sept. 29-30 Myrtle Beach Junior Challenge on the Myrtle Beach National Golf Club West Course.
Juniors off to Worlds
Twelve Strand juniors ages 7-14 have qualified to participate in either the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship or Teen World Championship at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C.
The U.S. Kids championship, for players 12 and under, will be held Aug. 2-4, and the World Teen event for players 13-18 is from July 26-28. The 12-under championship draws about 1,300 players over nine courses and the teens traditionally draws more than 700 on six courses.
There is a special World Cup match play event for the top 20 finishers from the U.S. and top 20 finishers from international locations on Pinehurst No. 2.
Players qualified by finishing first in a seasonal U.S. Kids Golf Myrtle Beach Local Tour schedule and matching a nine-hole scoring requirement of between 41 and 48 depending on age, and/or 18-hole requirement between 82 and 92.
Qualifiers are Pawleys Island’s Adrian Anderson (Girls 7), Ashley Anderson (Girls 14), Davis Hogan (Boys 14) and Amanda Meno (Girls 8), Myrtle Beach’s Harry De Grood (Boys 9), Holden Grigg (Boys 11), Ethan Hood (Boys 14) and Sami Spencer (Girls 11), North Myrtle Beach’s Madison Elliott (Girls 12), Conway’s Dylan Griffin (Boys 10), Murrells Inlet’s Smith Knaffle (Girls 10), and Ocean Isle Beach’s Ryan Jahr (Boys 7).
Spencer washed cars, watched neighbors’ pets and performed chores in order to save money to buy new clubs, then shot a qualifying score with a cast on her broken foot, according to her mother, Terry.
The U.S. Kids Golf Myrtle Beach Local Tour is two events into its eight-event summer schedule. Remaining events are June 30 at Wild Wing Plantation, July 8 at Pine Lakes Country Club, July 14 at Farmstead Golf Links, July 21 at Tradition Club, Aug. 11 at The Surf Golf & Beach Club, and the tour championship Aug. 19 at Wachesaw East.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading,go to MyrtleBeachOnline.com.