On Grand Strand Golf: A look back at happenings from the World Am

ablondin@thesunnews.comSeptember 3, 2012 

The Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship is never short on interesting happenings, and the 29th annual edition last week on 60 Grand Strand courses provided oh so many.

It’s worth a look back at some of them.

• A total of about 35 people were disqualified from the nearly 3,100-player event for either rules violations or perceived handicap violations.

Tournament rules official Frank Monk said there were about a dozen disqualifications due to rules violations, which is somewhat typical. “Most are not due to people trying to cheat, they just don’t know the rules,” Monk said. “It seems year after year the biggest thing is just a problem with the scorecards, people trying to write a score for each hole. You’re not signing for the final score you write, you sign for the score each hole.”

Rain prior to and during the tournament presented many of the issues, including wet scorecards and participant interpretations of the “lift, clean and place” condition of play and rules regarding embedded balls.

“Some of the interpretations of those were a challenge, for sure,” Monk said. “Any time you let them pick the ball up after every shot you’re subject to challenges. It’s just very dangerous.”

Monk said DQs often occur because players wait to see the rules committee at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center to take up their issue rather than addressing it with the head pro at the golf course before signing their scorecard.

Tournament director Jeff Monday said there were approximately two dozen DQs for apparent handicap violations, which he said was 10 or so less than last year, possibly because of more pre-tournament handicap scrutiny.

During the tournament, an average of two to three players in each of 68 flights had their handicaps adjusted and narrowly avoided disqualification.

• There may have been a new record set for the worst 18-hole score, though no tournament records are kept for ineptness.

Steve Burch of Texas, playing with a 31.4 handicap in Flight 32 for men ages 50-59, opened with rounds of 125 at Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club and 130 at Carolina National Golf Club, and those were by far his two best rounds. He closed the event with a 169 at the Barefoot Resort Dye Club and 163 at Wachesaw East.

The scores are impressive if for no other reason than Burch, who has had recent health issues, completed the cart-path-only rounds.

“He was having a hard time,” said Jose Saucedo of Tempe, Ariz., Burch’s playing partner at Wachesaw East. “He had a lot of walking to do, probably twice as much as me and I shot a 105. I give him credit. He didn’t quit. He kept going at it. He’s got more guts than me. If I had hit 130 I would have walked off.”

• The most intriguing set of scores for the week came courtesy of Robert Elliott of Indiana, playing with a 36.4 handicap in Flight 63 for men 70 and older. Elliott shot rounds of 157, 164 and 125 in the first, third and fourth rounds at Sandpiper Bay Golf Club, Arcadian Shores Golf Club and Myrtle Beach National’s King’s North Course for a combined 135 net over par.

In Tuesday’s second round at Tradition Club, he’s credited with an 85 for a net 48, which could win four-person captain’s choice events single-handedly. But you’d need to catch Elliott on the right day.

• Seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens not only competed in the World Am for the second time in three years – in between his first two professional pitching starts in five years – but he contended for the title.

Playing with a 6.9 handicap index, Clemens qualified for the championship round Friday at the TPC of Myrtle Beach and was within a stroke of the lead at net 5-under par with four holes to play.

But he hit his tee shot out of bounds on his 15th hole and took a double bogey, then made net bogeys on two of his final three holes to tie for ninth with a 79 for a net 1-under 71.

• Kayla Parsons of Myrtle Beach returned to the tournament as an 11-year-old a year after being disqualified in her first appearance as the youngest player in tournament history at 10. She played with a 30 handicap last year, and was DQ’d after shooting a career-best 88 in the second round.

She earned redemption this year as a 14.4 handicap, winning her flight by three shots with rounds of 82, 92, 84 and 83 for a 281 net.

“It’s a different experience playing two days last year and seeing if I could still make it this year, which I did,” Parsons said. “It was a good experience. I wanted to see if I could really make it to the top and see how good I was.”

Parsons shot a 98 at the TPC of Myrtle Beach in Friday’s championship round. “I didn’t have a good day,” she said.

• Speaking again of disqualifications, it was bound to happen one day that the apparent winner of the tournament would be disqualified during or after the championship round for playing too well. That happened in 2005, when Al Simon of Charlotte, N.C., shot a 91 for a net 14-under 58 at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club and was promptly DQd for a perceived handicap violation. Simon’s disqualification gave Jerry Glenn of Pensacola, Fla., the title with an 81 for a net 65.

Another inevitability occurred this year, with a winner in New Jersey’s Robert Mieczkowski who had been previously DQd from the tournament for playing too well for his handicap, as determined by tournament organizers. Mieczkowski thought he won his flight to qualify for the World Am championship round in 2010 but was DQd on the eve of that round. He shot a 76 for a net 7-under-par 65 Friday to win.

•  There were changes made to the setup of the 19th hole at the convention center. Chief among them: concerts in the ballroom were replaced by music and entertainment in an outdoor tent that included a beer truck and cigar provider; and multiple food providers in a Taste of the Town-like setup were replaced by one vendor serving a full meal, though Logan’s Roadhouse, Domino’s and Friendly’s ice cream provided food every night.

The dinner setup received some criticism. “The 19th hole, what a joke,” said Joe Sheehy of Myrtle Beach, who attended Monday. “ They’ve got three places you can get food and you’ve got a couple thousand people in there. … They’ve tried to scrimp and scrimp. It was really just disappointing compared to past years.”

Monday, who spent his first year as tournament director, said the tournament staff will meet in the coming weeks to discuss possible changes, and food at the 19th hole will be among the topics.

“It is something we’ll look at,” Monday said. “It just depends on who is serving the food and how fast we can get it out, and making sure there is enough food to serve everyone. It probably is beneficial to put food as many places as possible. But you have to consider that you may have to wait a little bit longer but you get a full plate of food.”

Girls Golf beginning

Karen Nicoletti, LPGA teaching professional and owner of Nicoletti Golf Academy, plans to run the developmental LPGA-USGA Girls Golf of Myrtle Beach Program for a second year and is still seeking participants. It is open to girls of all abilities ages 7-17.

Registration is from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday, and groups meet every other Sunday from September through June from 2-4/5 p.m., though there is a break in January and February.

Nicoletti, who is also the new girls golf coach at Myrtle Beach High, said there are more than 225 LPGA-USGA Girls Golf sites in the country, and instructors are LPGA or PGA of America members.

At the end of the season all participants will have a chance to compete in the second annual LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Team Championship and Academy in Kiawah Island. Contact Nicoletti at 504-813-7605.

Caledonia a ‘fun’ layout

Caledonia Golf & Fish Club is No. 14 on Golf Digest’s first Most Fun Public Courses in the U.S. list, and is the only Grand Strand course to make the list of the 50 most fun public and 50 most fun private layouts.

Of Caledonia, the magazine says: “A Mike Strantz masterpiece weaving through mature oaks. Most fun of all might be sitting on the porch after 18 and betting on others’ approach shots.”

The lists were chosen with the help of Golf Digest’s roughly 1,100 panelists who create the biennial rankings of America’s 100 Greatest Courses, 100 Greatest Public and the Best in State. They gave “fun” scores to more than 500 courses throughout the country, which were averaged to create the rankings.

Panelists were urged to consider playability for all golfers, manageable rather than punishing length, routing that allows walking, and friendliness of staff.

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

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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