Golf Channel personalities and South Carolina natives Kelly Tilghman and Charlie Rymer are giving junior golf in the Myrtle Beach area their support and some publicity for a second consecutive year.
They are returning to participate in The First Tee of the Grand Strand’s Future Generations Tournament at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club on July 30, and intend to film live segments that day on the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive program for a second year.
“As it stands right now we’ll be broadcasting there on Morning Drive,” said Tilghman, who added that unforeseen breaking news is the only thing she envisions bumping the planned live segments. “We hope to have a stronger Morning Drive presence, hope to get more local businesses involved, and we’re looking forward to having [Myrtle Beach] mayor [John] Rhodes come out and support us.
“We’re still in the formative stages, so we’re still brainstorming about how we want to make this bigger, better and different.”
The First Tee of the Grand Strand provides golf instruction and character building stressing nine core values to the youth in Horry and Georgetown counties, and is operated through a foundation that also oversees the highly successful First Tee of Brunswick County.
The fundraising Future Generations tournament has a 10 a.m. shotgun start and costs $2,000 per foursome, which includes breakfast and dinner at Caledonia, commemorative group pictures with Rymer and Tilghman, and a gift bag including gift cards from PGA Tour Superstore.
This summer’s event will also serve as a tribute to Todd Welden, who was Caledonia’s head professional from its opening in 1994 until his death in October at the age of 50 after a short battle with cancer.
“We’re very focused on the primary mission, which is to raise as much money as we can for The First Tee programs in Brunswick County and the Grand Strand,” Tilghman said. “Along the same lines we have something very important to do this year. We’re going to honor Todd and make this a memorial to Todd this year. It will be very special to the people at Caledonia. He was beloved there. It all will be geared toward the children and remembering Todd.”
Players will receive a Memorial Challenge coin with insignia representing The First Tee, Caledonia and Welden, and the dinner may be provided by Prosser’s barbeque, a Welden favorite.
Tilghman grew up in North Myrtle Beach and Rymer is a Rock Hill native and past spokesperson for marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, and Tilghman said she hopes the duo will be able to participate in the tournament every year moving forward, work permitting.
“Charlie and I are definitely standing behind this event,” Tilghman said.
Tilghman has a role with the national First Tee, serving on a committee that selects college scholarship recipients each year through support from Royal Bank of Canada. The grants go to children and families that can’t otherwise afford scholarships.
She’d like to grow her role with The First Tee, and believes that begins in Myrtle Beach.
“I feel if I’m going to take a next step with The First Tee it needs to start with my hometown program,” Tilghman said. “I think we’re onto something here. Last year was the inaugural and it was very successful for a first try. It was small but we gave it a bigger presence with Morning Drive hits.
“I hope to create something special to showcase the Myrtle Beach program and pull people in from around the country. That’s the goal. We’re just getting started.”
The tournament is on a Wednesday, and Tilghman and Rymer hope to arrive in Myrtle Beach a day or two in advance and get footage from programming at The Golf Park at Cinghiale Creek, the First Tee of Brunswick County’s impressive 28-acre home site that includes the 9,000-square-foot Carolinas Life Skills and Leadership Academy, 4,000-square-foot learning center, turf maintenance equipment building, three golf holes, a Tom Watson signature practice facility that includes nine TifDwarf Bermudagrass greens, a two-tiered driving range and nine tee boxes. Two greens are lighted.
In addition to mingling with players following and perhaps before the round, Tilghman and Rymer expect to have an active role in the tournament. As they did last year, Tilghman may hit tee shots for every group on a designated par-3 and Rymer may hit drives on the tee box of a par-4 or par-5.
“I think this year while it will have a somber tone in the sense that we’ll be remembering Todd, it will have a celebratory tone for all the great things he did in his life and all the opportunities we’ll be able to create for these children,” Tilghman said.
Interested players can contact The First Tee at 910-754-5288 or its executive director Rebecca Albin at 304-952-4473.
The Dye Club at Barefoot Resort head professional Jeff Diehl and International World Tour Golf Links director of golf Tom Plankers have joined the non-profit Carol S. Petrea Foundation’s 15-member board of directors that overseas the Brunswick County and Grand Strand First Tees. They have replaced a couple Brunswick County residents, giving the Strand chapter more of presence on the board.
True junior solution
The Grand Strand’s inability to produce some of the top-ranked boys and girls junior golfers in the state over the past decade has prompted operators of sister courses Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue Plantation and the Steve Dresser Golf Academy at True Blue to join forces on a progressive junior program.
Players in the new Dresser Academy junior program can become junior members at Caledonia and True Blue for $150 per year. “It’s a nice opportunity for them to get a lot of course time and there are no real restrictions,” said Dresser Academy fitness director and golf instructor Chris Daily, who is spearheading the junior program along with instructor Ali Byrd.
Memberships include access to practice facilities and playing rates of $13.50 for nine holes and $20 for 18 on the otherwise expensive courses. Parents playing with their junior member will receive guest of member rates.
“Instruction isn’t the issue [with juniors]. Maybe it’s access and cost,” True Blue and Caledonia head pro Bob Seganti said. “We’re trying to reduce that cost and give kids more access in the hopes that these juniors will become our adult customers. We all have to do our part to grow the game.”
True Blue is also encouraging sponsorships for the $150 memberships from either its members, companies or the general public to give the students and their families a break.
True Blue and Caledonia have been among the host courses for Waccamaw High’s boys and girls golf teams, and Caledonia is host to The First Tee of the Grand Strand’s fundraiser.
The designed junior programs begin Tuesday and will be largely for teenagers. Daily believes those players fall through the cracks of junior programming.
“I see a hole in the entire area for junior golf,” said Daily, the first-year coach of Waccamaw’s boys team and a certified Titleist Performance Institute instructor. “… We need more stuff for basically from seventh-graders through seniors. There are a lot of these good First Tee programs and these programs for the kids, and they get to high school and they’ve got the high school team and that’s kind of it. There’s not another program for them. So the whole idea is to give them a place that’s not only some swing instruction, but add in a little bit of some fitness.
“Hopefully we can help them succeed.”
The basic junior program is $149 per month and includes a weekly 90-minute group lesson and monthly one-hour private lesson, with coaching on goal planning, tournament preparation and planning, course management and career direction. A program for $199 includes more TPI, fitness and nutrition, and a comprehensive competitive program is $500 per month/$5,000 per year.
Offerings may be more expansive in the summer. “I think interest will perk,” Daily said.
The Dresser Academy has a junior clinic every Thursday from 3:30-5 p.m. Players interested in Dresser Academy junior programs can call 843-650-2272.
PGA volunteers sought
Representatives of The Dunes Golf & Beach Club say they have signed up more than 300 volunteers for the PGA Professional National Championship from June 22-25 at both The Dunes Club and the Grande Dunes Resort Course, and are seeking 300 more.
The PNC will bring 312 of the top PGA of America club and teaching pros from 41 PGA sections across the U.S. to compete for 20 spots in the 2014 PGA Championship, to be held at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., in August.
Golf Channel will broadcast parts of all four rounds in Myrtle Beach live.
The 600 volunteers will cover approximately 1,400 shifts over six days that include two practice round days.
Volunteer packages for the event cost $25 and include a uniform (hat and golf shirt), access to the championship grounds for the week and lunch each day. Volunteers who sign up for three or more shifts will also receive a complimentary and transferrable round of golf.
The official volunteer application may be downloaded at www.thedunesclub.net under the “Golf/2014 PGA PNC Tournament” tab. Email volunteer coordinator David Kullenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Earning Hootie spots
Lugoff-Elgin High senior and Auburn signee Kelli Murphy of Elgin has her choice of players to caddie for in the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am on April 14, and has indicated she’ll choose Nancy Lopez, whom she also caddied for last year.
Murphy shot a 2-under-par 68 at Sumter Country Club on Saturday to win the South Carolina Junior Golf Association’s Caddie Classic, which determines the 36 junior golfers who earn the right to caddie at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club in two weeks.
Chase Fisher of Columbia won the boys division with a 70 and has the second pick. The top 10 girls and 26 boys among 80 competitors earned caddie spots and choose a team – each including a pro golfer and another celebrity – based on their stroke play finish. Jackson Cole of Pawleys Island was the only participant from the Grand Strand among about 80 and did not earn a spot in the Hootie tournament.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284. To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, or Twitter page, @alanblondin, visit myrtlebeachonline.com.