On Grand Strand Golf: Myrtle Beach golf market providing brothers a final trip

ablondin@thesunnews.comSeptember 17, 2012 

Brothers Ken and Randy Doerr have been taking golf vacations to Myrtle Beach each fall for 18 years, and they’re returning again next week.

This trip will be unlike any of the others, however, and it will be their last.

Ken, 61, has been beset by Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and some members of the Grand Strand golf community have joined forces to provide the brothers with a final trip they hadn’t planned to make.

“This is going to be a special one for us. It will be different and very special,” Ken said. “We usually don’t do a good job of chronicling our adventures with a camera, but we’re sure going to take some pictures this time. We’re just really excited about it; excited as we can be.”

The Doerrs epitomize the Myrtle Beach buddy trip – in this case brother trip – that the market has been targeting and promoting.

They have been booking packages for the past several years with Mark Rosenberg of Seaside Golf Vacations in North Myrtle Beach. When Ken contacted Rosenberg early this year to inform him they wouldn’t be able to make the trip, Rosenberg thought it would be an honorable gesture for the market to show its support for the Doerrs' business and loyalty.

So Seaside Golf Vacations, marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday and a few courses and accommodations are all contributing to a five-day vacation for the Doerrs from Sept. 24-28.

They are staying at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, playing The Dunes Golf and Beach Club on Tuesday, Crow Creek Golf Club on Wednesday and the Barefoot Love Course on Thursday, and some dinners will also be arranged.

The brothers grew up in Indiana. Ken, a now-retired warehouse operations manager, still lives there, and Randy, 63, a pharmacist, lives in New Hampshire. They are keeping their traditional routine of Randy flying to Indiana for the drive to Myrtle Beach.

“It’s a two-day drive, just the two of us in the car yacking about life and listening to Bob Dylan,” Ken said. “That’s part of the ambiance of it all, the four-day round trip drive.”

Ken had been to the Strand on several vacations prior to the brother trips, and Randy has a Harley-Davidson and has been to a few Myrtle Beach motorcycle rallies, the last in 2008. But the brothers first came to Myrtle Beach together 18 years ago, after both of their parents died within nine months of each other. “It was a brother bonding trip and that’s the way it has remained,” Ken said.

People have suggested the two add friends or other family members – including children – to the trip. “No, that’s not why we’re going,” Ken would say.

The trip is usually in late October, but because Ken is fighting ALS and time, they decided to come earlier this year. “I’m starting to have some mobility issues, so I figured the sooner the better,” Ken said.

The ALS was diagnosed in January, but Ken believes the disease, which affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement, has been in his system for about two years.

“It’s a pretty subtle disease when it first starts,” Ken said. “You get leg cramps and muscle cramps, and your legs twitch a little bit, but you don’t really think much about it.”

Ken said he began to not trust the sturdiness of his right leg going up hills, and he tumbled into a sand trap in the final round of last year’s vacation at Legends Resort. He finally went to see a neurologist after he told a friend he didn’t want to drive home from a dinner because he feared failing a field sobriety test even if he hadn’t had much to drink.

“It became apparent to me I wasn’t going to be able to play much golf within a few months of that last round [at Legends],” Ken said. “It’s taken its toll.”

For their three Strand rounds, Randy will play all shots from the tee to within 30 yards of the green, and Ken will drop a ball there and they’ll play the remainder of the hole together.

“We can’t get enough of [Myrtle Beach] and we’re looking forward to coming next week,” said Ken, who typically brings a guitar on the trips for late-night Dylan sing-alongs. “It was great for Mark and everyone there to open up their arms to us and give us one more trip.”

Wizard alters bunkers

The Wizard, designed by Dan Maples in 1996 in the tradition of links-style golf, has had its Scottish feel enhanced with the addition of St. Andrews-style sod facing to five greenside bunkers and the rebuilding of 20 fairway traps into a multitude of pot bunkers.

In addition to the dramatic bunkering, the par-72, 6,721-yard design features heather-grassed mounds, rolling fairways and some elevation changes. Stone bridges and a castle-style clubhouse complete the United Kingdom ambience.

Greenside bunkers that were redesigned include one to the right on the par-3 fourth hole, a pair to the right and left on the par-3 sixth, and one to the left on the par-3 12th. The depth of the fairway pot bunkers hasn’t changed, so they aren’t too deep to be overly penalizing.

The Wizard is one of three courses owned and operated by Mystical Golf, along with the neighboring Man O’War and The Witch.

Ritson-Sole five stars

TripAdvisor.com has awarded the Ritson-Sole Golf School the Certificate of Excellence award. The school has locations at both Pawleys Plantation and the Grande Dunes Resort Course, and received “excellent” five-star reviews from all 83 respondents on the consumer rating site.

The school’s $35 afternoon group clinics at both locations will continue through the winter. Ritson-Sole also offers free one to three-day programs to juniors 16 and under who are accompanied by a paying adult, and two-for-one pricing on fall and winter three-day schools.

BMW substitutes course

The picturesque Reserve at Lake Keowee will join Thornblade Club and Greenville Country Club’s Chanticleer Course in a new course rotation for the 2013 BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation.

The Reserve at Lake Keowee is a 7,112-yard, 18-hole Jack Nicklaus design that includes undulating hills and scenery of the Blue Ridge mountains and lakes. The Reserve replaces Carolina Country Club in Spartanburg, which has been in the course rotation since 2008.

The BMW Charity Pro-Am is the only tournament on the PGA Tour’s developmental Web.com Tour where amateurs and celebrities are grouped with tour professionals in a four-day better-ball competition. Amateurs, celebrities and pros rotate between three courses in the first three rounds, with the 16 low pro-amateur/pro-celebrity teams advancing to the final round.

Contact Mike Ivester at 864-630-9276 for playing or sponsorship information for the 2013 tournament next May.

Academy links with owners

Golf Academy of America, the world’s largest and longest-running two-year golf college with a campus in Myrtle Beach, has entered into a partnership with the National Golf Course Owners Association.

In the agreement, the NGCOA will provide greater ease-of-access to job opportunities for students, and the academy will increase awareness of the NGCOA brand through targeted exposure to interested students.

Golf Academy president Mike Largent said he intends to invite NGCOA members to campuses for lectures, career days and other events. The academy will also have a prominent presence at the NGCOA’s annual conference, to be held Feb. 4-8, 2013 in San Diego, along with leading companies in the golf industry including Nike, TaylorMade and Toro.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284. To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, go to MyrtleBeachOnline.com

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