On Grand Strand Golf: Hunt reconsiders career choice

ablondin@thesunnews.comJuly 9, 2012 

Lauren Hunt of Little River, a champion at every level of golf, has decided chasing the dream isn’t for her anymore.

Hunt, 25, has opted to give up playing competitive professional golf and is looking for a job.

She has been in her third year on the Symetra Tour – the feeder circuit of the LPGA Tour formerly known as the Futures Tour – but hasn’t teed it up since a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier on May 28. She still relishes the competition, but has grown weary of the lifestyle that accompanies it on mini tours.

“I don’t enjoy the whole package, and I feel to be happy you have to enjoy the whole package of professional competitive golf,” Hunt said. “I’m ready for a steady income and the travel was getting old – living out of a suitcase, a different city each week, in the car for 15 hours – it was starting to get on my nerves. I thought about it and prayed about it and at the end of the day this is the direction I wanted to go.”

After making nine of 28 cuts in her first two years on the Symetra Tour and recording a top finish of 21st, she made her first two cuts of the year in Florida with a tie for 46th in the March 23-25 Florida’s Natural Charity Classic with a 74-73-74—221, and tie for 35th in the April 20-22 Sara Bay Classic with a 73-81-75—229. She earned $1,238, but hasn’t played a tour event since as she contemplated her future.

“I kind of needed to be in solitude for a while and do my own thing and make sure this is what I wanted to do,” Hunt said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I’m ready for some stability.”

Hunt won individual state high school titles at North Myrtle Beach High and won a college tournament en route to earning a Communications degree from North Carolina in May 2009. She won the 2005 Carolinas Women’s Amateur Championship and the 2006 Carolinas Women’s Match Play Championship, and won a Suncoast series event shortly after turning pro.

“I’ve been playing since I was 8 years old. That’s 17 years of competition,” Hunt said. “I’ve won at every level: junior, high school, college, amateur and I have a pro win. I’ve met every goal I wanted to meet, but ultimately I’m ready for something different. I’m still a golfer, but in terms of competitive golf I want to hang up the clubs for now.”

Hunt would ultimately like to find a job in the golf business world, possibly working as an account executive in marketing or public relations for a large company, building and maintaining relationships involving products and clients.

She could always help her father, Ben, grow his MyGolf membership privilege program, which offers discounts for golf rounds as well as entertainment, shopping, dining, etc., and spans courses and businesses in several states and Canada.

But she first wants a job outside the golf world, and has already had several interviews.

“I’d like to completely get out of the golf industry right now, and get out of my comfort zone,” Hunt said. “I’d ultimately like to do something golf-related, I just want to get out of it for right now.

“I have to find the company that gives me a chance. I am more than a golfer. I need the chance to show that I can do more than golf.”

Will Hunt ever consider a return to competitive pro golf? “I don’t know,” she said. “I want to redirect golf, get my amateur status back and compete as an amateur.”

McPherson returning home

The LPGA Tour is off for two weeks, and Conway native Kristy McPherson will likely be spending most of that time in Conway.

She might even get some house hunting accomplished.

McPherson bought a home in the Tampa, Fla., area in 2008 for several reasons, including the more consistent practice weather in the winter, proximity to winter mini-tour events she was playing, and the convenient travel afforded by a larger airport.

But she’s been spending much of her downtime from the LPGA Tour this year with her parents, David and Janice, at the Murrells Inlet home she bought them, and she’d like to buy a house somewhere near them with access to the Intracoastal Waterway and a boat dock sometime within the next year.

“I’m not in a big hurry, but I definitely want to get something sooner than later,” McPherson said. “My parents are getting older and I want to spend some time with them.”

McPherson said she’s not sure if she’ll keep her Florida house, but she’ll likely hold onto it at least until the housing market improves.

“I eventually want to end up in South Carolina for good,” McPherson said. “The main thing we look for is a good airport and good weather. I have some good friends down there, but it’s not home. The hardest part is having to fly out of a small airport, but it’s definitely worth it to spend time with family and see my friends up there.”

The right direction

Playing opportunities for McPherson and her fellow LPGA Tour members were dwindling in recent years, but McPherson is encouraged by the progress made by the LPGA Tour this year under commissioner Mike Whan.

The tour added four tournaments in North America in 2012, including three in the United States, bringing the 2012 total to 27 with at least a $1 million purse – 28 if you include the limited-field $750,000 Brazil Cup.

The tour added events in Hawaii and Canada, brought back the Jamie Far Toledo Classic and Kingsmill Championship in Virginia, added a purse to the Founders Cup in Phoenix, and sanctioned the Women’s Australian Open to kick off the season.

Travel and expenses are an issue for players, however, with 12 events in foreign countries spread throughout the schedule, including several events in Asia and Europe.

“It was nice to get some of them back,” McPherson said. “We have to travel a lot, but you’ve got to go where the sponsors are and who will pay you to come play. But it’s been good. We’ve added a few more and it looks like we’re going to add more next year. We’re looking at getting back up to 30 to 32 tournaments a year, which will be nice.”

A few more events would give McPherson more flexibility in her schedule and travel, rather than having to play just about every tournament.

Whan said last week that adding domestic events has been among his top priorities as commissioner, but he also said the tour’s goal “is to make sure we are making this sport as borderless as possible for women around the world.”

On the bag

McPherson’s caddie this year is Dave Poitevent, who has been on the LPGA Tour for six years and had 17 previous years of sporadic experience on the PGA and Web.com (formerly Nationwide) tours.

He was Yani Tseng’s caddie for a pair of wins in 2010, including a major victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Charity event has home

The First Tee of the Grand Strand has found a home for its fundraising golf tournament.

The organization’s Future Generations Tournament, a four-person captain’s choice scramble team event with an 8 a.m. shotgun start, will be held Aug. 25 on the SouthCreek and West courses at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club.

Net proceeds will help fund the organization’s year-round programming for up to 10,000 youth in Horry and Georgetown counties.

The entry fee per four-person team is $380 and includes breakfast, lunch and a cocktail hour with complimentary beer and wine. Only team reservations will be accepted. Silent and live auctions will be held. The First Tee of Brunswick County’s version of the event at St. James Plantation has attracted approximately 500 players in each of the past two years.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available, with levels ranging from $75 to $10,000. To register visit www.tftgs-tour.org or www.TheFirstTeeTheGrandStrand.org, or call 843-333-1931.

Golfing with daughters

This week is “Take Your Daughter to the Course Week,” as promoted by the PGA of America and National Golf Course Owners Association.

The organizations are encouraging everyone to introduce daughters, granddaughters and nieces to the game this week. More than 1,000 participating facilities across the country are offering free green fees to girls accompanied by a paying adult, with many facilities also offering free clinics for young ladies.

Several courses on the Grand Strand are participating, and many already offer free golf to juniors with a paying adult all summer.

To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, go to myrtlebeachonline.com.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 843-626-0284.

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