Myrtle Beach to host PGA national club pro championship in 2014

ablondin@thesunnews.comMarch 6, 2013 

— The Dunes Golf and Beach Club will be adding the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship to the list of prestigious events it has hosted, and the Grande Dunes Resort Course will be able to put it atop its resume of tournaments.

The 47th edition of the event, better known as the national club pro championship, will be played on the two Myrtle Beach courses from June 22-25, 2014.

Both courses will host players in the first two rounds of the 312-player tournament, and The Dunes Club will host the final two rounds exclusively after the field is cut to the lowest 70 scores and ties.

In addition to competing for a purse that is $550,000 this year, the top club professionals from 41 PGA of America sections also will compete for 20 spots in the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., the final of professional golf’s four majors in 2014 with a purse of at least $8 million.

The winner will receive exemptions into six PGA Tour events into the 2015 season and a champion’s check that is $75,000 this year.

Golf Channel will provide television coverage from Myrtle Beach all four days. It provided 8 1/2 hours of live broadcasts from the final three rounds of the 2012 PPNC as well as two hours of first-round tape delay coverage, and the channel says it is available to 110 million viewers in the U.S., Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Latin America, Malaysia, the Middle East, Scandinavia and Singapore.

The Dunes Club has previously hosted the 1962 U.S. Women’s Open, final stage of the 1973 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament that yielded Ben Crenshaw, Gil Morgan and Gary McCord, and Champions Tour Championship for six years from 1994-99.

“We haven’t had an event of this magnitude since 1999, so this returns us to a national scale,” Dunes Club head pro Dennis Nicholl said.

The 1948 Robert Trent Jones layout has been ranked among the nation’s top 100 public courses by Golf Digest, Golfweek and Golf Magazine, and was home to the Golf Writers Association of America National Championship from 1954-2005.

The par-72 Dunes Club measures 7,195 yards and will close this summer for a renovation project directed by Rees Jones, son of the Dunes Club’s architect who is nicknamed the “Open Doctor” for his work on numerous courses in preparation for their hosting of a U.S. Open or PGA Championship.

The renovation will include the transition of greens from bentgrass to Champion Bermudagrass, and could include other improvements and the lengthening of a handful of holes to add up to 150 yards of length.

“We’re excited about [the event] and it all ties in with the renovations this summer from Rees Jones,” said Nicholl, who was involved in more than eight months of negotiations with PGA officials. “We’ll modernize the course a bit for the modern game and give it a little facelift.”

The PPNC has been a precursor and test run of sorts for the PGA of America’s two more prestigious tournaments, the Senior PGA Championship and PGA Championship, and Dunes Club officials don’t have to look too far for an example.

Though Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup first, it also hosted the 2005 club pro championship before hosting the 2007 Senior PGA Championship and 2012 PGA Championship.

“Everything you do in hosting events builds your resume,” Nicholl said. “It opens doors for other potential events. Then it comes down to whether our membership wants to pursue those events.

“We’ll give this tournament its due diligence, take care of these club professionals as well as we can and show the world what we have to offer and see what comes down the road in the future.”

PGA officials will be assessing the club on many levels.

“Hosting our national PNC is an ideal way for us to see how the golf course plays and how it is accepted by our best playing PGA members,” said Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s Chiefs Championships Officer. “By hosting the PNC, it also allows us to see how the club is able to support a championship with volunteer help as well as community involvement.

“. . . Whether or not a club wants to host larger events is something that varies from site to site, but hosting the PNC certainly provides all parties with a great opportunity to showcase themselves.”

United States Golf Association events such as the men’s and women’s U.S. Amateurs could also become possibilities, though some larger events would likely require some added course length in addition to what Jones may oversee this summer, unless the course lessened its par. “If we were to host a [major] event we would have to do a lot more than we’re doing,” Dunes Club superintendent Steve Hamilton said.

The Ocean Course is the only other S.C. layout to host the PPNC, which has been held in only 15 states.

On the heels of the Ocean Course’s staging of the PGA Championship last August, a 130-mile stretch of the Carolinas will be the center of the golf universe in June 2014. Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort will host the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in consecutive weeks, and the final round of the Women’s Open will overlap the first round of the PPNC, which is played Sunday through Wednesday.

“That whole month of June will be great for all of Myrtle Beach and the Carolinas,” Nicholl said. “… After the women finish that Sunday, they’ll cut to first-round coverage at The Dunes Club [and Grande Dunes].”

Nicholl said Golf Channel will have TV towers on The Dunes Club’s final 10 holes, possibly towers on a couple finishing holes at Grande Dunes, and hand-held cameras throughout both courses.

The Resort Course will present its own challenges to the club pros, particularly length, considering it can be stretched to a daunting 7,600 yards. The course opened in 2001 along the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway and was designed by Roger Rulewich, who spent 34 years working for Robert Trent Jones.

It was named the National Golf Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association in 2009, and has hosted a pair of Carolinas PGA-run South Carolina Opens.

“The PGA of America is very proud to be taking our national championship in 2014 to Myrtle Beach, a resort destination that has embraced the game of golf unlike few other sites in the world,” PGA of America President Ted Bishop said in a statement.

Tournament organizers will be looking for an estimated 400 volunteers from the community, and spectators will be admitted free.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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