On Grand Strand Golf: City residents saving Conway Country Club

ablondin@thesunnews.comJuly 16, 2012 

Like many in the Conway area, Mike Hardee has played Conway Country Club for decades.

He wants to make sure that opportunity continues to be available to current residents and future generations.

Hardee became the course’s volunteer general manager in April and embarked on a crusade to rescue the 60-acre nine-hole property from financial peril and improve it, with a little help from his friends.

“It’s been a little tough struggle but we’re on the right path,” Hardee said. “The golf course is cleaned up, is neat, and is in real good shape. We have done what we needed to do to make that happen. The only thing left now is getting people back to playing.”

The course had been managed for nearly two years by former owners of the Myrtle Beach Golf Shop, which has gone out of business.

Hardee said the foreclosure process has started on the course, which is owned by its shareholders, and Conway National Bank wants $75,000 in back payments before it renegotiates the loan, which Hardee said has about $320,000 remaining on it. Some of the bank’s founders were Conway Country Club members.

Course officials have raised approximately $50,000 since April – about $40,000 in stock sales and nearly $10,000 through a fundraising golf tournament. The course had about 600 outstanding shares through 2011, and the board agreed to make an additional 600 available at $250 each to raise funds, and about 200 have been sold. Another tournament is planned for the fall, and stock sales continue with $15,000 left to obtain.

Hardee said the funds have been placed in an escrow account pending the agreement to refinance the loan, and will be given back to donors if the necessary amount isn’t raised.

“We are trying to make this a great golf course for the Conway community,” Hardee said. “We’re trying to make everyone welcome, and if they have any complaints they just need to let someone know and we’ll do our best to straighten it out.”

Hardee, a recently retired Lance snack food salesman, has owned one share in the course since the 1980s and was elected to the five-person board of directors and named vice president last August. Thomas Floyd is the president.

It has been a community effort to refurbish the property, as Hardee has relied on donated time, work, equipment and products from his friends and acquaintances to help improve the course.

Jimmy Edwards of J&J Complete Tree Service provided two days of tree trimming and removal to improve the course’s playability, aesthetics and course condition. The cut trees and limbs were instantaneously chipped into mulch that is being placed at the base of trees around the course.

Contractor Gene Henry donated his time and equipment to reclaim the outskirts of holes, clearing back bushes and brush up to 20 feet, drove tractors around the course for a week dusk till dawn cleaning up areas along holes. “It opened it all up so you could see everything,” Hardee said. “Just the appearance is so much better than what it was.”

Frankie Vereen of Vereen’s Turf Products assisted course workers last week with a deep and thorough aerating of the TifEagle Bermudagrass greens, which Hardee said hasn’t been done for at least seven years. Areas of greens that needed work were sodded with grass from a TifEagle green nursery on the property.

A few thousand dollars was spent on chemicals to kill nematodes and alleviate a salt issue in the greens’ turf. The work was overseen by superintendent Bee Vongsavanh, who has been at the course since 2006 after moving over from the closed Deer Track Golf Resort courses.

Several loads of crushed asphalt were donated to repair cart paths, and the inside of the restaurant area was repainted and updated.

Area resident Robert Griffin contributed to the cause by purchasing 100 shares of stock.

“We’ve had a lot of good people step up and help us out,” Hardee said. “A lot of them are friends of mine who I’ve done things for in the past. This place has come a long way since April 1.”

The par-36 course features tight fairways and small greens and can be stretched to 3,068 yards from all of the back tees, though the tees are set up for separate nines measuring 2,908 and 2,966 yards. The longest par-4 is 367 yards and the closing hole is a 545-yard par-5. Small greens all have some break, and the course has several water hazards, but only a handful of bunkers that have all received new sand.

The facility has a practice putting green, 200-yard deep driving range and pool.

Conway Country Club has increased golf members from less than 40 to about 50 and has 60 pool members – up from about 20 last year. A men’s league that plays Tuesday is about 70 strong, a women’s league has about 20 members, and a men’s Saturday scramble regularly attracts 20 players. Full memberships start at $300 for the remainder of the year, and include a daily bucket of range balls.

Hardee said the course had about 250 members in its heyday in the 1980s, and there was a waiting list. “It was the happening place in Conway,” Hardee said.

The 18-hole price is $20 with a cart and $14 without. High school-aged children play free with or without a cart and can hit balls at will, and younger juniors can play free with a paying adult. “We cater to the younger guys and then maybe they’ll remember us when they get older,” Hardee said.

The club is rented out for weddings – there have been three recently – the pool is rented out for parties, and cook Missy Goodwin caters.

The board has a stockholders meeting planned to replace three members of the board, but not enough stockholders have been identified or located in order to get a required 75 percent vote, so the club is in search of them.

Many shares have been passed on to relatives of deceased original stockholders. All stockholders are encouraged to contact Hardee at 843-450-4892, Floyd at 843-997-5321, or the pro shop at 843-365-3621.

“It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack trying to find all these shares of stock,” said Hardee, who has agreed to remain the volunteer GM until the club is turned around. “We don’t have a clue where some of these people are.”

Fathers, sons unite

The 15th annual Golf Dimensions National Father & Son Team Classic is being held on eight Grand Strand golf facilities Thursday through Saturday and has approximately 812 players.

In addition to title sponsor Golf Dimensions, new sponsors include TD Bank, Red Bull and the Greg Norman Collection. The tournament beneficiary is First Tee of the Grand Strand.

The formats over three rounds are better ball, alternate shot and two-man captain’s choice, and amateurs play at 80 percent of their USGA handicap.

The entry fee of $950 for returning teams and $1,175 for new teams includes a gift package; $100 Golf Dimensions gift card, $100 in tournament merchandise, Thursday cookout at the Barefoot Resort driving range including skills contests and demo opportunities, and cookout during the awards ceremony at Barefoot’s driving range.

The tournament welcomes fathers and sons, grandfathers and grandsons, stepfathers and stepsons, fathers and sons in law, and uncles and nephews. Past winners include PGA Tour member Kris Blanks and his father Donnie Blanks.

Wilcox returns for event

Chris Wilcox of the NBA’s Boston Celtics is hosting the fourth annual Chris Wilcox Power Forward to Cure Lupus Golf Outing at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3 at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club.

Entry fee is $100 for an individual or $300 for a team of four and the captain’s choice scramble event benefits the Lupus Foundation of America. Two of Wilcox’s aunts died from Lupus in the 1990s, and his older sister, Tehesia, currently suffers from it. The disease has no cure or known cause.

Visit ChrisWilcox.com, email info@chriswilcox.com or call the Carrie Potter Group at 713-982-8500 for more information.

The 6-foot-10, 29-year-old Whiteville, N.C., native who helped Maryland win the 2002 NCAA Championship had his own medical scare this past season. He appeared in 28 games last season through March 7 for the Celtics – with whom he re-signed this month for the 2012-13 season – averaging 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game before a routine screening detected a thickening of his aorta.

Wilcox underwent heart surgery later in March at the Cleveland Clinic and was cleared to resume basketball activities earlier this month.

Morgan Cup on tap

Three teams of eight amateur golfers each will compete in the second annual Morgan Cup team match play event from July 28-29 at Caledonia Golf and Fish Club and True Blue Plantation.

Each of three rounds will be contested in a different format: singles, two-man scramble and better ball of partners. The teams were chosen through video submissions to www.thehackersparadise.com, an interactive site covering a wide range of golf topics.

Sponsors Bridgestone Golf, Callaway Golf and Cleveland/Srixon Golf are supplying players with 14 clubs, personalized staff bags and apparel. Golfers participating represent 12 states, Canada and Ireland.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284. To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, or Q&A Forum Ask Al, go to TheSunNews.com.

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