Bob LeComte, who is largely responsible for the success of the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship, has died.
The 22-year Murrells Inlet resident, whose contributions to the now 30-year event were summed up by his personalized license plate that read “World Am,” had battled Stage 4 lung cancer for about two years. He was 83.
A Mass of Christian Burial that is open to the public will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Precious Blood of Christ Church in Pawley's Island.
LeComte was born in Brooklyn and moved to Wilmington, Del., in 1955, where he had a 37-year marketing career at the DuPont company.
The World Am was initially run by Golf Digest and sponsored by Rawlings, but it was without a title sponsor and in debt after two years. That’s when LeComte convinced DuPont executives to sponsor the tournament, which the company did for 19 years through 2005.
LeComte served as executive director of the tournament for 13 of its first 15 years – seven years as a DuPont employee and six years for marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday. The tournament grew incrementally under his leadership and peaked with 5,000 players in 2000.
He made his way to the Grand Strand when Golf Holiday took over tournament operations from Golf Digest in ’92. LeComte retired from DuPont and accepted a job as Golf Holiday’s director of the World Am, a position he held through 1998.
LeComte was responsible for several popular World Am features. Among them: he introduced a championship round for flight winners, expanded the 19th Hole expo and its offerings, offered high-dollar grand prize drawings, and enticed celebrities to make appearances and writers to participate and publicize the event.
LeComte also played an integral role for Golf Holiday in negotiations to bring the Senior Tour Championship to the Strand. It was played at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club and TPC of Myrtle Beach from 1994-2000.
When the event needed a title sponsor in 1995, LeComte composed sponsorship proposals for 20 companies, which led to Energizer’s title sponsorship. He also recruited Mickey McCamish, whom he knew from McCamish’s days as a 10-year tournament chairman for the McDonald’s LPGA Championship in Wilmington, to join Golf Holiday to run the season-ending Champions Tour event. McCamish eventually became Golf Holiday’s executive director and president.
LeComte and his wife, Marilyn, celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary on June 7. He is survived by Marilyn as well as his son Robert John LeComte Jr., four daughters Denise Wilkinson, Jocelyn Cooney, Claudia Wayman and Annette Johnson, 15 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.
A poem that LeComte wrote to Marilyn on their 62nd anniversary, and one she wrote to him more than 20 years ago, will be read during the Saturday mass.
Last August, LeComte received a new World Am lifetime achievement award that is named in his honor and will be awarded annually to individuals who have meant a lot to the event.
CPT still growing
The Coastal Players Tour continues to pick up steam in its third year, as the tour structure of minimal entry fees and 36-hole weekend events has been popular with area professionals.
Tour founder and director Buddy Wilkins began the 2014 season on March 22-23 at The Pearl Golf Links, and stayed in Brunswick County through April and May as tee times were difficult to get in Horry County during the busy spring golf season.
He’s held eight events, with two at The Pearl, two at Sandpiper Bay, and one at Panther’s Run, Thistle Golf Club and Myrtlewood’s PineHills Course. A tour major this past weekend at Myrtle Beach National’s King’s North course attracted a sold out field of more than 50, including 37 pros, with a waiting list.
The first four events sold out at 36 players and the Myrtlewood event had 42 players, including 34 pros.
“It’s continuing to grow,” Wilkins said. “I’ve decided with the Coastal Players Tour to go the economy route with no membership fee and low entry fees and trying to pay more spots. We pay 92 percent after golf course payment to 30 percent of the field in the pro and amateur divisions.”
Events are typically every other weekend. Entry fees for two-day events are generally $225 for pros, $210 for senior division players ages 48 and older, and $125 for amateurs. Amateurs receive Visa gift cards as prizes.
The entry deadline is the Wednesday before each event, if the tournament remains open that long.
Wilkins has 19 events scheduled in 2014, with some sites late in the year to be determined based on course availability. There are discussions of a possible season-ending three-day pro-am at Hartsville Country Club from Dec. 6-8.
The next event is July 26-27 at Myrtlewood’s Palmetto Course, with tee times at 10 a.m. both days and entry fees of $225 for pros, $210 for senior pros, $125 for amateurs and $120 for senior amateurs.
“It’s all about repetitious play and repetitious competition so players can do the Monday qualifiers and things like that,” Wilkins said.
Mitch Gray of Florence won the major at King’s North on Sunday with a 8-under 67-69–136. Patrick Lundy of Little River and Zak Drescher tied for second at 138, and area players Josh Jackson, Zack Byrd and Derek Watson also finished in the top 10.
Dan Poling won the senior division with a 4-over 148, Josh Rogers won the amateur division with a 1-over 145, and James Fretesi won the senior amateur division with a 151.
Johnson in Public Links
Torey Johnson of Conway shot an 8-over-par 78 Monday in the first round of the 38th and final U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at The Home Course in Dupont, Wash.
Johnson was a medalist by four shots in a sectional qualifier at Ironwood Golf & Country Club in Greenville, N.C., on May 27 with a 67.
Her father, NGA Pro Golf Tour tournament director Terry Johnson of Conway, is caddying for her this week.
Annie Park of Levittown, N.Y., a co-medalist in the WAPL last year, is one of Johnson’s playing partners and is again among the tournament’s top players after shooting a 1-under 69 Monday.
Johnson will have to play well Tuesday to continue in the 156-player tournament. After two rounds of stroke play, players with the low 64 scores advance to match play, which will be conducted over six rounds including Saturday’s 36-hole championship match, and Johnson is a few shots off the cut line. “We just have to clean it up a little bit and we’ll be fine,” Terry Johnson said.
Johnson played at Charleston Southern and graduated in May with a degree in Humanities and Fine Arts with an emaphsis in English and Christian Studies. She plans to play as an amateur this summer and possibly into next year while working at the Jockey factory outlet in Myrtle Beach and working on her game. She’s contemplating a pro career.
“If we get the work done and get to the point where we want to get, we can see what happens,” Johnson said.
Best Ball upcoming
The seventh annual Low Country Open two-player best ball tournament is being held Aug. 2-3 at Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club.
The event features 36 holes of stroke play and will be flighted into five flights based on first-round scores. The entry fee of $125 per player includes a $50 Nike gift certificate, use of carts, range balls, lunch and on-course non-alcoholic beverages during the two competitive rounds. Practice rounds on Aug. 1 are available for $25 and there will be a buy-in pool for teams.
Tournament director Al Hogan expects to award more than $6,000 in prizes, with payments of $450, $300 and $200 to the top three teams in each flight and additional awards for skills contests.
Entries must be received by July 25 and the event benefits the Claire Chapin Epps YMCA of Myrtle Beach. Contact Hogan at 843-267-5850 to enter or visit www.scgolfcenter.com /low-country-open-tournament.
Sessions hosts event
NBA player and Myrtle Beach High graduate Ramon Sessions is hosting a tournament Saturday at River Oaks Golf Club to benefit Myrtle Beach High athletics and the Buddy Rogers Memorial Scholarship.
The four-person team captain’s choice event has a 9 a.m. shotgun start. The entry fee of $200 per team includes a morning snack, beverages, Divine Dining catered lunch, prizes, one raffle ticket per player, and a 50-50 drawing.
Sessions will be playing along with his agent, Jared Karnes of Allegiant Athletic Agency (a3). Contact Danny Gray at 843-236-2222 or 843-685-5071 to enter.