MYRTLE BEACH — An 8 percent increase in participation for the 2013 Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship could be partially attributed to the event celebrating a round anniversary number, with this year’s event being the 30th.
But tournament operator Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday is hoping the anniversary is playing only a small part and it’s more of a sign of things to come and response to the tournament becoming a better value.
Approximately 3,320 players are registered, which is the most since there were 3,623 participants in 2008. It represents an 8 percent increase over the 3,091 players registered last year, which was an increase of 8 percent over 2011.
“That’s a good number,” said tournament director Jeff Monday. “At some point our goal was probably in the 3,200 or 3,300 range and we got above that. Anything up in golf these days is good, and we don’t want to just be up a little bit, so we’re really happy to see some substantial growth.”
Players are from 27 countries and 46 states, with only Oregon, Idaho and the Dakotas not represented.
Tournament organizers improved the gift bag this year and expanded offerings at the World’s Largest 19th hole, a nightly party and expo at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center from Monday through Thursday.
A new two-week early bird special in April offered tournament entry for $425, which is $125 off the $550 late-summer entry, and it attracted 2,200 players who were eligible for multiple equipment and travel giveaways.
“Really we kind of went back and embraced the roots of the tournament and what really makes it the event it should be,” Monday said. “We were able to generate some good buzz with some random drawings early on, and all of that combined with everything else going on has created a lot of excitement. From the beginning we’ve been able to garner a lot more excitement.”
The gift bag has an approximate value of $300 and includes an Oxford outerwear pullover, Greg Norman Collection shirt, Club Glove Caddy Towel, Alpaca socks, World Am hat, TaylorMade hat, TaylorMade Penta balls and $20 PGA Tour Superstore gift card. “That’s something that’s a real improvement over not only what most other tournaments with an entry fee like this would have, but even what past World Am participants have received,” Monday said. “It’s a nice way to give back some value up front when you walk in the door.”
The top five finishers in each of 70 flights will win TaylorMade-adidas/Ashworth gift certificates, which are worth $600 for flight winners.
The 19th hole will feature three golf simulators and more than 50 exhibitors taking up 60 booths, which doubles the number of exhibitors and booths from 2012, and PGA Tour Superstore will have retail floor space. “It kind of gives it a golf show feel,” Monday said.
There will be nightly contests featuring a long putt and a 50-yard indoor par-3 with limited-flight balls, with a SkyCaddie GPS watch and $25,000 as grand prizes – the cash is won with a made long putt in the final or hole-in-one on the par-3. All proceeds from the contests will go to charity.
Main stage entertainment and speakers include comedian Henry Cho, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Genevieve Morton, Golf Channel commentator Brandel Chamblee, Golf Magazine travel editor Travelin’ Joe Passov, Big Break Greenbrier winner Mark Silvers, and instructors Brad Redding and Hugh Royer III. Golf Channel personality Charlie Rymer and Conway’s Mitch Laurance will handle emcee duties.
A new game room will be set up with corn hole, darts, video games including Golden Tee and Silver Strike bowling, and four pool tables with world billiards champion Ewa Laurance performing trick shots and accepting challengers for charity on Wednesday and Thursday. “There will be a lot of things for people to do this year,” Monday said.
Food offerings continue to change. There will be 10 food stations in the main hall. Domino’s pizza, Friendly’s ice cream and Sheraton – offering a soup and salad – will be serving nightly. Caterers include Sticky Fingers barbeque Monday, Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s culinary school and another caterer offering a “Taste of the South” on Tuesday, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center food services Wednesday, and local restaurants Thursday including Greg Norman’s, Capriz, Rioz, Sam Snead’s and Explore Asian Bistro & Grill.
Bands scheduled for the ballroom are the Swinging Medallions – which includes original saxophonist Fred Pugh, who is one of 11 men who will be playing in their 30th World Am – Calvin Taylor, Blue Dogs and Plain Jane.
The championship round on Friday will be played at Barefoot Resort’s tough Dye Club for the first time, and also new to the event was a participant World Am kickoff party Sunday night at Crocodile Rocks and Revolutions at Broadway at the Beach that drew 1,400 RSVPs.
Six-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Roger Clemens is among this year’s notable registrants and is competing for the third time.
“If everything goes as planned this year, with the changes that have been made, the entertainment, the activities, the food, the upgraded offerings with beer and liquor at the 19th hole – all of those things that add to the experience – we feel the growth we have now will just keep accumulating and we’ll see additional growth next year,” Monday said. “These changes we’ve made are the beginning of what we plan to keep doing in the future.
“We celebrate 30 years right now, but really what we’re doing is looking back at 30 years and trying to figure out how we get this to springboard and get it back to something people talk about year-round.”
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.