Both The Heritage tournament in Hilton Head Island and Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., have been amassing player commitments, even though their player registration deadlines are at least 10 days away.
The two events are the closest the PGA Tour comes to the Grand Strand - each about a four-hour drive away.
It could conceivably be the final opportunity for golfers to play a PGA Tour event at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, which has hosted an event since 1969, because the tournament is without a title sponsor both this year and moving forward.
Tournament organizers have been in dire search of a new title sponsor for more than a year, since longtime title sponsor Verizon announced it was diminishing its role with the event. It's possible that the tour would take the tournament away and move it to another location if a title sponsor isn't found by the fall.
Both Sergio Garcia and Mike Weir played The Heritage last year for the first time since at least 2002, and said their decision was at least in part to help show support for the tournament and its importance to the tour.
Though the tour pushed The Heritage back a week from its traditional dates the week after the Masters, the April 21-24 event may receive similar support this year.
Players have until 5 p.m. the Friday prior to a tournament to commit, but commitments last week to the 43rd Heritage include international standouts Francesco Molinari and Ian Poulter.
Molinari, 28, is ranked 15th in the Official World Golf Rankings, has five international victories and earned his first PGA Tour win by winning the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. The Italian will be making his first Heritage appearance. His older brother, Edoardo, competed at Harbour Town in 2006.
Poulter, 35, is ranked 16th in the world. The Englishman has 11 international victories and one PGA Tour win, when he beat Paul Casey in the final match to win the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Poulter hasn't competed in The Heritage since 2006.
Prior commitments to the 2011 Heritage include defending champion and reigning FedEx Cup champion Jim Furyk, reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, world No. 10 Matt Kuchar, five-time Heritage winner Davis Love III, fellow former Heritage winners Stewart Cink, Boo Weekley and 1997 British Open champion Justin Leonard, two-time major winner John Daly, Clemson alum Jonathan Byrd, 2010 U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, former Masters winners Trevor Immelman and Zach Johnson, and 2011 tournament winners Johnson Wagner and Mark Wilson.
Daily tickets and weekly badges are on sale online at theheritagegolfsc.com or by calling 843-671-2448.
The Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club, buoyed by solid dates and a world-class course, annually hosts most of the world's top 20 players, and it will once again May 5-8.
Among those already committed to play in Charlotte are world No. 1 Martin Kaymer, No. 9 and defending champion Rory McIlroy, No. 11 and Coastal Carolina alum Dustin Johnson, No. 12 Furyk, No. 17 Bubba Watson, No. 18 Hunter Mahan, No. 19 Retief Goosen and No. 20 Robert Karlsson.
Tournament winners in 2011 who have committed include Byrd, Jhonattan Vegas, Wilson, D.A. Points, Rory Sabbatini and Wagner, a resident of Charlotte. Past Wells Fargo winners Sean O'Hair and David Toms are also entered. Wells Fargo tickets can be purchased at WellsFargoChampionship.com or by calling 704-554-8101.
The pecking order
Another player who is already in the Heritage field is Jeff Peck, the head professional at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, on the strength of his 2-under-par 70 Monday through strong winds at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton in the first round of the second annual Carolinas PGA Section Head Professional Championship.
The opening round served as the CPGA qualifier for the Heritage, with one spot available. It will be Peck's second PGA Tour appearance. The 41-year-old won the 2009 CPGA Professional Championship and played in the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship, where he shot rounds of 87 and 78 to miss the cut.
"I'd like to do better than last year for sure, and I wanted to get a little bit of excitement going at my home club," Peck told a CPGA official Monday. "The members there were really behind me even though I didn't do so great, and they really got a kick out of it."
Peck's 70 has also given him a two-stroke lead over Oliver Peacock of Seven Devils, N.C., entering today's final round of the 55-player CPGA Head Pro Championship. Steve Isley of Oak Island, N.C., is tied for fifth at 74, Chuck Johns of Longs is tied for 13th at 76, Kim Cauthen of Pawleys Island is tied for 24th at 78, and Dale Ketola of Murrells Inlet and Jeff Davis of Calabash, N.C., are tied for 34th at 80.
Chants earn top seed
In the midst of an impressive spring season that has vaulted the Coastal Carolina women's golf team to No. 40 in the nation in Golfweek magazine's Sagarin Rankings, the Chants have easily earned the No. 1 seed entering next week's Big South Conference Women's Golf Championship at The Patriot Golf Club in Ninety Six.
Golfweek's rankings determine the seeding, and the closest team to the Chants among the nine conference's women's golf programs is associate Big South member Bucknell at No. 144. Gardner-Webb is No. 162, Radford is No. 172 and host Winthrop is No. 189.
Coastal has the highest ranking for a Big South women's golf team since former member Birmingham-Southern was No. 35 in 2006-07. The Chants were selected for a regional last year despite finishing second in the Big South tournament, and would certainly be a candidate for an at-large event again this year.
They haven't finished worse than sixth in five spring tournaments, and have a win and runner-up finish. The Chants also recorded a win and runner-up finish in five fall tournaments.
Sophomore Jessica Alexander leads the team with a 74.89 scoring average and has three top-five finishes this spring, while freshman Courtney Boe and junior Kaitlin Higginbotham have finished in the top 30 in all five spring events, and sophomore Brittany Henderson tied for fifth March 1 in the Kinderlou Forest Challenge in Valdosta, Ga.
The winner of the 54-hole event next Monday through Wednesday receives the Big South's automatic berth to the NCAA regionals. Fans can follow the action online via GolfStat's live scoring feature.
Hanging with Hootie
Johnson Holliday of Aynor and Ryan Wilkinson of Galivants Ferry both played well enough in the 18th Caddie Classic at Camden Country Club this weekend to earn caddie spots in next Monday's Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am at the Barefoot Resort Dye Club.
They will each caddie for a group of six players that will include a pro golfer and celebrity. Holliday shot an 80 to tie for 12th in the boys 15-18 division, and Wilkinson shot an 81 to tie for 15th in the same division. Based on their finishes, Holliday has the 22nd pick of MAM groups and Wilkinson will pick 27th out of the 32 juniors that qualified to participate as caddies. Zachary Hickman of Myrtle Beach shot 82 to tie for 19th and is the first alternate.
Will Starke of Chapin shot 67 to win the tournament and has the first pick of sixsomes, while Sydney Legacy of Lexington won the girls title with a 71 and has the second pick.
Caledonia earns state honor
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club was named the top public-access course on the Grand Strand in voting for the "Best You Can Play in South Carolina" by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel, and the Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course and Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head Island tied for the top public course in the state.
Both host prestigious events. Harbour Town, a Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus design that opened in 1969, is hosting the PGA Tour's Heritage tournament this month for the 43rd consecutive year. The Ocean Course, a Dye design that opened in 1991, has hosted several significant events including the Ryder Cup, World Cup and Senior PGA Championship, and is hosting the PGA Championship next year.
The panel selected courses in four regions. The Walker Course at Clemson University was named the best in the Upstate, and The Country Club of South Carolina in Florence and Mount Vintage Plantation & Golf Club in North Augusta tied for best in the Midlands.
The Grand Strand contains 16 of the 31 courses selected, headed by Caledonia, which opened in 1994 as Mike Strantz' first solo design.
Other Strand courses selected include: The Barefoot Resort Love, Dye and Fazio courses, Glen Dornoch, Grande Dunes, Legends Resort's Heathland Course, Pawleys Plantation, Pine Lakes, Prestwick Country Club, The Dunes Golf and Beach Club, Founders Club of Pawleys Island, Heritage Club, Tidewater, TPC of Myrtle Beach and True Blue.
The South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel is composed of 125 golf enthusiasts representing a diverse range of occupations, handicaps and backgrounds, and there are approximately an equal number of panelists in the four regions.
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