Patriots Under Par Golf Marathon a hit for Veterans

ablondin@thesunnews.comNovember 12, 2012 

Last year on Veterans Day, Golf Academy of America student and 21-year Air Force veteran Mark Chapman played 11 rounds in 11 hours at Waterway Hills to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project and Salute Military Golf Association.

Administrators and students of the academy’s Myrtle Beach campus didn’t create such a difficult fundraiser this year, but got more of the veteran students involved Monday with the Patriots Under Par Golf Marathon at River Oaks Golf Plantation.

A foursome of Military veterans turned Golf Academy of America students played from approximately dawn to dusk, and a total of about a dozen veterans took part in the marathon, replacing participants as they had to leave for classes or other obligations. “They’re just making sure there is a foursome going all day,” Myrtle Beach campus director Jim Hart said.

The golf marathon raised money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members, and assists them in their reintegration into non-military society.

Participants included Air Force veteran James McGinnis, Navy veteran Paul Gerhardt, Army veterans Larry Panther and Kendricke Waldon, and Marine veteran Eric Jordan.

“We’re playing golf for a good cause,” Jordan said.

Hart said some players received sponsorships and pledges for the number of holes they played, birdies they would make and other milestones.

The academy combined the marathon golf effort with two other Wounded Warrior Project fundraisers at River Oaks on Monday. Players at River Oaks could earn a sleeve of Titleist Pro-V1 balls for either hitting the green of a designated par-3 for a $10 donation, or making a putt on the practice putting green after buying one chance for $2 or three chances for $5.

Panther’s wife, Victoria, who is also a veteran, ran the par-3 contest in her military uniform.

All five Golf Academy campuses in Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Dallas, Phoenix and San Diego simultaneously sponsored the all-day golf marathons.

The academy’s connection to Veterans Day and military-related charities and organizations is a natural one.

Hart said approximately 15 percent of the school’s 365 students are veterans, and that’s fairly consistent with the school’s other campuses.

Veterans are often looking to further their education upon retirement from the military because they can receive GI bills, which are paying the tuition of the golf academy. “That’s a pretty good deal,” Waldon said. “It’s a great school. I love it. It’s a pretty good retirement gig.”

The GAA offers a 16-month golf course management program with a curriculum of golf instruction and business management.

“I grew up playing the game, so I knew if I didn’t make a career out of the military I’d come here and make a career out of the golf industry,” said Jordan, who was a four-year Marine before leaving the military in July 2011. “That’s what attracted me to it. And it’s quick. You’re not sitting around for four years.”

A student veterans association has formed at the Myrtle Beach campus, and it conducted a tournament at River Oaks on Sunday that attracted 28 student veterans. Panther is the president of the student veterans association and Waldon is the vice president.

Waldon, a 20-year Army veteran who retired Oct. 1 and enrolled in the academy on Oct. 28, is involved with a Warrior Transition Unit at Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga.

“We rehabilitate them, and get them a lot of counseling so they can deal and cope with whatever injuries they have,” Waldon said. “We’re all kind of wounded warriors because you’re never the same person you are when you go back.

“They mainly focus on traumatic brain injuries and amputees, but recently they’ve started addressing the depression issue and [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] because that’s the silent killer, as they say. A lot of those problems may not happen for a year or two after you come back [from deployment].”

Celebrating 50 years

The Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association is celebrating its 50th Carolinas Golf Show conference and trade show through Wednesday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, and it has come en masse.

The intra-industry show will feature the latest technologies for modern golf course maintenance from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday.

A record number of education and seminar seats have been sold, surpassing the previous record of 1,303. The trade show floor is sold out with approximately 380 booth spaces filled by approximately 200 companies, and more than 2,000 attendees are expected.

CGCSA executive director Tim Kreger anticipates gross revenues from registrations, exhibit space, etc., will exceed $600,000. Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes is scheduled to give the welcoming address to general sessions Wednesday morning.

“The amazing thing is the largest crowd we’ll ever bring here will happen on our 50th anniversary,” Kreger said. “I think it says a lot about the industry. Although new course construction is pretty much nonexistent, there are a lot of renovation projects and green conversions from bentgrass to Bermuda.

“… The good news is people are playing golf.”

The Dunes Golf and Beach Club superintendent Steve Hamilton will become president Wednesday of the CGCSA, which at 1,800 members is the largest regional superintendent association in the U.S.

A field of 323 players – the largest in several years – took part in the association’s golf championship Monday at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club, Fazio Course and Norman Course.

Steve Agazzi of Kiawah Island Resort’s Turtle Point shot a 69 to claim the championship at the Dye Club for the second time in three years. Kevin Thompkins of True Blue Plantation and Clay DuBose of Tradition Club each shot 76 to tie for second.

In addition to the golf tournament, nearly 50 superintendents participated in a sporting clays shooting competition Monday.

Crall moving up

Former Carolina PGA assistant executive director Darrell Crall, who worked at the CPGA from 1990-95 – when the organization was based in North Myrtle Beach – was promoted Saturday to Chief Operating Officer of the PGA of America.

His promotion came as Peter Bevacqua became the third CEO of the world’s largest sports organization, according to the PGA.

Bevacqua, who previously served as chief business officer for the United States Golf Association and more recently led the golf division of CAA Sports, succeeds Joe Steranka, who retired after 25 years with the PGA, the last seven as CEO.

Crall was promoted from his position as the PGA’s Managing Director of Strategic Development. He will oversee the association’s day-to-day business operations. He joined the PGA national office in 2011 to spearhead the implementation of Golf 2.0, and will continue to be heavily involved in the industry-supported strategic plan to grow the game.

Crall, 44, was born in Fort Benning, Ga., and grew up in Ashland, Ohio. His positions with the Carolinas PGA Section included junior golf/tournament manager, director of education and employment, and director of tournament operations.

He spent 15 years through 2010 as executive director of the Northern Texas PGA Section, guiding the growth of one of the nation’s most dynamic junior golf programs.

Quail tickets on sale

Tickets are on sale for the 11th annual Wells Fargo Championship, being played May 2-5, 2013 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., went on sale Monday.

A weekly ticket book is $140, single day tickets are $40 and $50, and a practice pack for Monday through Wednesday attendance is $25. The tournament also offers several hospitality and premium ticket options starting at $895.

Patrons can purchase tickets and research ticket options by visiting wellsfargochampionship.com or by calling 1-800-945-0777. Children 12 and under are free with a paid adult admission (one child per paying adult). Parking and shuttle service from tournament lots are free.

During the past ten years, Quail Hollow Club has welcomed all of the world’s top 25 players. The tournament was awarded unprecedented back-to-back “Best in Class” Awards in 2009 and 2010 by the PGA Tour.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284. To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, or Twitter page visit myrtlebeachonline.com.

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