The General James Hackler Championship will feature eight of the top 50 teams in the country and offer area golfers an opportunity to play with some of the nation’s top-ranked college players in a preceding college-am.
The 54-hole collegiate event hosted by Coastal Carolina is being played March 11-12 at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club.
Participating teams ranked in the top 50 in Golfstat’s national rankings are Virginia at No. 4, Wake Forest (12), LSU (16), Kent State (26), North Florida (33), defending champion South Carolina (38), Kentucky (42) and N.C. State (50). Seven of those teams are also in the top 50 of Golfweek’s Sagarin college team rankings, led by LSU at No. 4.
Other participating teams include host CCU, Virginia Tech, Charleston Southern, East Tennessee State, East Carolina, Iowa State and South Alabama, one of CCU’s fellow Sun Belt Conference members that is coached by former USC Gamecocks assistant Alex Hamilton.
Seven players in the top 16 of Golfstat’s scoring average ranking are entered in Sam Burns of LSU at No. 3 with a 69.0 scoring average that is -2.5 versus par, Scott Stevens of South Carolina at No. 5, Jimmy Stanger of Virginia (T8), South Carolina’s Keenan Huskey (T8), N.C. State’s Jacob McBride (12), Kent State’s Ian Holt (14) and Virginia Tech’s Sarit Suwannarut (16.).
In Golfstat’s head-to-head national rankings, Burns and Stanger are Nos. 3 and 4. Burns is ranked third in the country by Golfweek, Will Zalatoris of Wake Forest is ninth and Stanger is 10th. Virginia’s Derek Bard, who played in last year’s Masters Tournament as the 2016 U.S. Amateur runner-up, is also in the field.
Stanger is a defending co-medalist of the Hackler and is enamored with The Dunes Club, having also won the prestigious Southern Amateur on the course last summer.
“We said our goal from day one was to turn it into a top-five collegiate tournament. I know we’re getting there if we haven’t already gotten there,” said Rhett Graham, CCU athletics director for corporate sales and sponsorships, and a former CCU men’s golf team member.
The Dunes Club is hosting the tournament for the third consecutive year after the event moved from its longtime home of the TPC Myrtle Beach. The semi-private club has agreed to host it at least through 2018 and expects to continue hosting the event for the foreseeable future. Several of its members participate in the college-am.
“We are committed to them through 2018,” Dunes Club president Billy Monckton said. “I think it’s a great event for the school and the area. I know our membership enjoys it. Coastal has a pretty good crowd coming in this year.
“I see it being something that can be a longer term agreement but it has not come up yet. As long as it continues to grow I think we’ll be a supporter of it.”
Obtaining future dates at the club can help CCU interim men’s golf coach Chad Wilson secure advance commitments from schools.
“It’s very important we continue to build on our relationship with The Dunes Club,” Wilson said. “The players all have great things to say about the staff and the golf course. It is a championship golf course. It’s important to continue getting commitments from them and we should be able to do that moving forward.”
This year’s field has many of the top teams in the Southeast region, and the 2018 event may be even stronger in that regard while also expanding its reach. Wilson said Clemson and North Carolina are participating in a concurrent tournament at Bandon Dunes in Oregon this year but are interested in CCU’s event next year, Texas A&M and Pepperdine have committed to 2018, and Mississippi and SMU are also interested depending on dates.
A tournament experience that is bolstered by the support of marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday and the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association is adding to the tournament’s prestige.
“Word’s getting out that it’s a great event and great golf course and coaches are trying to get on the list earlier than normal,” Wilson said. “It is a top college event with the experience we can provide the athletes. The goal is to get the best teams, regardless of who they are or where they’re from. Everything we want to happen is happening.”
Word’s getting out that it’s a great event and great golf course and coaches are trying to get on the list earlier than normal. It is a top college event with the experience we can provide the athletes. The goal is to get the best teams, regardless of who they are or where they’re from.
CCU interim men’s golf coach Chad Wilson
The field for the college-am at 12:30 p.m. on March 10 is being expanded to 22 teams this year and there is still availability for a couple predetermined foursomes.
A foursome is $1,200 or $1,350 for a corporate foursome, which includes a large hole sign with a company logo and recognition in the tournament program. College-am participants receive Under Armor apparel, lunch, an awards banquet with buffet and prizes. Proceeds will support the Chanticleers golf team. Interested foursomes can call Graham at 843-349-2771, and there are also $300 hole signs available.
“It gives you an opportunity to play with guys who might make it to the PGA Tour in a more intimate setting,” Graham said.
The Hackler has filled its need for 40 volunteers.
CCU begins its spring season Feb. 26 at the John Hayt Collegiate hosted by North Florida at Sawgrass Country Club. “The guys have been playing phenomenal for this time of year. We have high hopes for this semester,” Wilson said.
Wilson assumed the interim head coach position when the contract for former head coach Kevin McPherson was not renewed last summer, and he said his status has not changed. “I’m just focused on this semester and getting these guys to reach their potential,” Wilson said. “I’ll let the administration handle all that once the season is over.”
The 2017 Hackler field
East Tennessee State