On Grand Strand Golf: Caledonia’s Welden battling cancer

ablondin@thesunnews.comSeptember 9, 2013 

Ask anyone who has taken a number of golf vacations to Myrtle Beach what their favorite area golf courses are, and almost unanimously they will include Caledonia Golf & Fish Club.

The Mike Strantz design and the beauty of the property and its manicuring leave a lasting impression. So to does the experience of being a customer at the Pawleys Island club, and Todd Welden can be credited for much of that.

Welden is the only head pro the club has known since it opened in 1994, and the warmness and professionalism that envelop the club are an extension of him.

The Caledonia staff and golfers are missing Welden these days.

He learned last week that the health issues he’s endured this summer are likely implications of Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer, which has metastasized into other parts of his body.

He said his oncologist believes the cancer started in a lung and progressed to his adrenal gland, bicep muscle, spine and a couple spots in his pelvic bone.

“It kind of blindsided me. I’m still kind of in a daze,” said Welden, 50. “It’s going to take a lot more than that to bring me down, though.”

Though he has more tests and procedures to undergo this week at both St. Francis and Roper hospitals in Charleston, treatments have already started. He underwent his first chemotherapy treatment Wednesday morning – a combination of three powerful drugs dripped for three hours – and has another one scheduled in two weeks, and he has a radiation treatment scheduled on his bicep Wednesday.

Welden said he has 10 radiation sessions scheduled including Wednesday through Friday and all five weekdays next week. “They can locate that and blast me with who knows what,” he said. After his third chemo treatment he said doctors plan a PET scan to determine the number and location of any remaining cancer cells.

He was back in Pawleys Island this past weekend and paid a visit to Caledonia on Monday. The Iowa native first got into the golf business as a pro at Pawleys Plantation from 1989-93 and was hired at Caledonia in August 1993, five months before the course opened.

“He was the one that helped me get Caledonia where it is,” said Caledonia and True Blue Plantation general manager John Springs. “It was his building and his forethought. I would ask Todd what we should do, and nine times out of 10 we would take his idea.”

Welden had a few health issues this summer that seemed at the time to be unrelated. He tore a bicep muscle and an MRI showed a hematoma along with the tear. Welden now believes the severity of the injury may have been caused by cancer in the arm.

Later, his back hurt when he sneezed, and X-rays of his chest showed he had pneumonia. He also was experiencing pain down the back of his leg and middle of his back, which led him to see a doctor.

“My body was trying to fight a lot of things,” Welden said. “It all kind of happened really wham bam.”

Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for about 85-90 percent of lung cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. It spreads slower than small cell lung cancer.

“This particular cancer is not curable but it’s treatable, and how long the lifespan goes depends on how good of shape you’re in and how you live your life from here on in,” said Welden, who added that pain medications have made him more comfortable since his diagnosis last week.

Welden, his wife and sister, who is a general practitioner in Iowa, are chronicling and updating his experiences, treatments and condition on the website Caringbridge.com, and he’s received a ton of feedback from friends and the golf community.

“I’m overwhelmed with the number of people asking, calling and texting,” Welden said. “It’s kind of humbling to be in this position. You don’t have that much control over it but you have a lot of people praying for you. It’s comforting and humbling.”

Tee sheet transaction

T-Links, the electronic tee sheet network that services nearly all of the Myrtle Beach area’s public courses through the Grand Strand Tee Time Network, has been purchased by Integrated Business Systems (IBS) of Richmond, Va., a software and services company that provides point of sale systems to golf courses.

The Grand Strand Tee Time Network mirrors Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday’s membership of approximately 100 hotels and 82 courses at 66 properties from Georgetown to Shallotte, N.C., and is generally the entity responsible for collecting the $1.50 per-round transaction fee that helps fund the marketing cooperative.

T-Links is used by about 200 courses at 165 clubhouses in eight states, and has been owned by about 100 of its member courses, including many on the Strand.

T-Links was founded in 1991 on the Strand and included 35 courses and 15 hotels through a loan for $100,000, according to Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association executive director George Hilliard. The Strand is one of six golf destinations that combined to expand it, along with Charleston, Hilton Head Island, Biloxi, Miss., Pinehurst, N.C., and Atlantic City, N.J.

Courses in Gulf Shores, Ala., and Virginia Beach, Va., were added a several years ago when the system they were using went out of business.

“We’re very excited about the sale to IBS,” said Grand Strand Tee Time Network executive director Tracy Conner. “The golf courses here in Myrtle Beach won’t notice any change with the service, and [courses’] annual cost for the service won’t change.”

IBS has been in business more than 20 years, and its purchase should allow T-Links to keep up with electronic tee sheet technology better and more efficiently. IBS says its software is used by more than 1,500 clubs throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

“Many of our current customers already use T-Links as their fully integrated tee sheet to our POS so this was a natural move that fits perfectly into our overall strategy to provide cloud (Internet)-based solutions to the golf industry,” IBS chief executive officer Anthony Strange said in a release. “Through this acquisition, we can now offer our current and future customers the most comprehensive golf operations software solution in the world.”

The sale was completed last week, and Strange was in Myrtle Beach with a couple other IBS executives a couple weeks ago. The IBS and T-Links systems are already integrated and interfaced.

T-Links had only four employees and they were all retained by IBS, including two help desk employees based in Myrtle Beach and two programmers who work from their homes in Anderson and Pittsburgh, Pa. The GSTTN will continue to operate as it has.

The GSTTN took the lead in rebuilding the T-Links system in 2008-09 with newer technology by using its own savings along with loans from Golf Holiday and the MBAGCOA. The money in reserves came from business deals with two Internet companies that struggled and couldn’t fulfill the contracts – Greens.com and Teetimes.com. Conner said the IBS purchase satisfies the two loans.

“We have a great system going now,” Hilliard said. “We feared we would become antiquated again. We’re not really programmers. This seemed to be the best deal. They can put some dedicated folks on T-Links system and keep it up to date.”

NGA adding partners

The Grand Strand-based National Golf Association Tour has expanded its base of corporate sponsors in the past two weeks. Both Wells Event Solutions of Las Vegas and Loudmouth Golf, which has become more popular through an endorsement contract with two-time major champion John Daly, have signed on for part or all of 2013-14.

Wells Event Solutions will help provide housing and possibly other services for players on the former Hooters Tour. It is a leading event management firm specializing in lodging and registration solutions for sports organizations and its services include online registration, housing, event planning and management, site sourcing and contract negotiation for event sponsors. The company will be the “official housing service” of the tour.

The partnership with colorful clothing manufacturer Loudmouth, based in Sonoma County, Calif., includes awarding the top finisher in each of 20 NGA Florida Winter Series events from October-February with an apparel product allowance.

HJGT coming back

The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour is returning to the Strand on Sept. 28-29 for the Myrtle Beach Junior Challenge on the West Course at Myrtle Beach National.

The entry deadline is Sept. 18, and the entry fee is $179 for tour members and $199 for non-members. The event is expected to provide points in the South Carolina Junior Golf Association Heritage and National Junior Golf Scoreboard rankings. There are four divisions, for boys and girls ages 11-14 and 15-18.

Interested players can visit www.hjgt.org or call 904-379-2697.

The junior tour’s season will conclude with The Hurricane Cup state team competition Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at The Retreat Course at Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Resort. The top four boys and four girls from the 15-18 divisions in each state on the Hurricane Tour’s points list will qualify, as well as the top two boys and two girls from the 11-14 divisions.

Competing states include Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, and a ninth team will be comprised of the top points earners from other states and nations.

Pendleton Bogache of Myrtle Beach has a sizable lead in the S.C. girls 15-18 division after recording a pair of wins.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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