Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson has committed to return to the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am in 2013, and he is being joined by a number of notable athletes or former athletes making their debut in the event.
NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood, 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup Team Captain Davis Love III, and basketball legend Rick Barry are expected to make their first appearance in the 19th Hootie MAM on April 15 at the Barefoot Resort Dye Club in North Myrtle Beach.
Hamlin is a 22-time winner of NASCAR Sprint Cup races, including eight in 2010 and five last year.
Greenwood is a four-time Super Bowl champion who was a member of Pittsburgh’s vaunted “Steel Curtain” in the 1970s.
Love is a 20-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the 1997 PGA Championship and the RBC Heritage on five occasions. He committed to play in the event last year but canceled because of a rib injury.
Barry is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and is the only player to lead the NCAA, ABA and NBA in scoring for a season.
Several returning participants are also among the early commitments to the event including two-time major golf champion John Daly; Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey of Bishopville, who earned his first PGA Tour win in last October’s McGladrey Classic; Golf Channel commentator Charlie Rymer; and two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip, who now oversees Michael Waltrip Racing.
Scott Stallings, who has won a pair of PGA Tour events in the past two years, is also among the commitments. Johnson has won seven PGA Tour events, including January’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and is the first player since Tiger Woods to win a title in each of his first six years on tour.
“We try to mix it up with the new names to add a new dimension to it, but we also want to stick with the guys who have supported us for so many years and that do so well with the fans,” tournament director Paul Graham said. “Sometimes we have big names come in and it may not be their gig and they don’t do as well with the sponsors, and one of our goals is to make sure our sponsors enjoy the event.”
Graham said he’s close to confirming a few other recognizable names who would be making their inaugural appearances, and they approached tournament organizers.
“They’ve heard about the event and want to be involved, and we’ll see if we can pull them in,” Graham said. “A lot of these guys that come in, they have their own event . . . and end up taking notes and going back to their event and bringing things back to their event. That’s very flattering.”
It will be difficult for organizers to attract LPGA Tour and Web.com Tour members this year. The Web.com is in Midland, Texas, through the eve of the MAM, and the LPGA has an event beginning in Hawaii two days after the MAM.
Conway native Kristy McPherson, who has played the past three years, can’t participate because she already has plans to travel to Hawaii before the MAM.
A post-tournament concert at the House of Blues is a staple of the day, and Hootie band members have concerts at the House of Blues in the days leading up to the MAM. Hootie lead singer and country star Darius Rucker is playing a show on Saturday, April 13, and Hootie band member Mark Bryan and his side band Occasional Milkshake is opening for longtime MAM participant Sister Hazel on April 12.
“There are a lot of good things happening with the tournament,” Graham said.
The Javier & Friends benefit featuring singer and MAM participant Javier Colon that has been held in Barefoot Resort for the past four years on the Friday preceding the MAM is not being held this year.
ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning Show will kick off the MAM on April 15 by broadcasting live from the first tee at the Dye Club beginning at 6 a.m. for the third consecutive year. Co-host Mike Golic is scheduled to play in the tournament.
A Celebrity Long Drive Contest follows at 10 a.m. and the tournament will tee off at 11 a.m.
Playing spots valued at $5,000 per person are sold out, as they have been in recent years, and are typically filled through the event’s many sponsors. Organizers are accepting names for a waiting list. Amateur teams are paired with both a pro golfer and celebrity.
Spectator tickets for the pro-am will go on sale at 11 a.m. Saturday at the House of Blues and both Barefoot Resort pro shops. Tickets are $15 for adults and kids 12 and under are admitted free, though they must have a ticket to enter.
The MAM has sold out its approximate 6,000 spectator tickets seven consecutive years, and it sold out by mid-March last year.
The Dye Club is hosting the Hootie pro-am for the 11th consecutive year. It was previously held in Columbia and Kiawah Island, and is among the largest single-day fundraisers in South Carolina.
The tournament raised $350,000 last year for various S.C. youth and education charities, pushing its 18-year fundraising total near $5 million. The band is in the midst of establishing an endowment that will continue donating to charities in perpetuity.
For information on MAM volunteer opportunities, call 843-881-2532 or visit www.hootiegolf.com/volunteers.asp.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.