Two of the most beautiful and popular women in professional golf, a two-time U.S. Ryder Cup Team captain and a pair of CBS Sports Radio shows are added features to the 23rd Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am.
Details of the tournament’s inaugural Hootie Golf Ball Drop have also been finalized for the fundraising event, being held April 10 at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club for the 15th consecutive year. Spectator tickets are already sold out.
Longtime LPGA Tour pro and model Natalie Gulbis will spend two days at the Dye Club as a co-host of the nationally syndicated television show 18 Holes with Natalie Gulbis and Jimmy Hanlin.
Aspiring touring pro and social media sensation Paige Spiranac will make her Hootie MAM debut, and 2012 and 2016 Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III is expected to return.
Gulbis and Hanlin are expected to set up at a tee box to provide celebrity interviews, entertain the gallery and record footage during the MAM tournament, and it’s possible Gulbis may play. They’ll also play the course and record footage Tuesday for their show, which should initially air in late May or early June.
The Gulbis and Hanlin show is distributed to more than 80 million households throughout the U.S. on the Fox Sports Regional Network, The YES Network and Root Sports, reaches 350,000 people through YouTube and the website golf18holes.com, and is heavily promoted on social media.
Gulbis has a history on the Strand. She was a spokesperson for National Golf Management before most of its assets were purchased by Founders Group International, and had use of a residence at Pawleys Plantation to use as her East Coast base.
Spiranac played at San Diego State, is an aspiring touring pro and has recently been named an ambassador for the anti-bullying CyberSmile Foundation. In addition to his Ryder Cup accolades, Love has won 21 PGA Tour events, including the 1997 PGA Championship.
Other athletes and celebrities that are expected to participate in the 23rd MAM include NBA legend Rick Barry; former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd; former Major League Baseball Closer Eric Gagne; radio and television personalities Dan Patrick, Mike Golic Sr. and Mike Golic Jr.; actor Joel Murray; Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers; NHL Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr; former NFL stars Bruce Smith, Sterling Sharpe and Jim McMahon; and musicians Aaron Lewis, Colt Ford, Edwin McCain and MC Serch.
Other committed pro golfers include Nancy Lopez, John Daly, Woody Austin, Chris DiMarco, Billy Horschel, Robert Gamez, Coastal Carolina alum Tom Gillis, Ken Duke, Chesson Hadley, Troy Merritt, Charlie Rymer, Kyle Thompson and D.J. Trahan.
For the second straight year, the Tiki & Tierney show featuring former NFL Pro Bowl running back Tiki Barber and radio and TV personality Brandon Tierney will broadcast live from 9 a.m. to noon at the Dye Club, and The Doug Gottlieb Show will broadcast live from 3-6 p.m. Gottlieb is a former Oklahoma State basketball standout who has become one of the more popular sports talk radio hosts.
Both shows will include interviews with the celebrities and pro golfers taking part in the tournament. Radio host and former PGA Tour player John Maginnes is expected to emcee at the Dye Club’s first tee.
Marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday is a major sponsor of the Hootie MAM and helps operate the event, and the two radio shows are part of a Golf Holiday agreement with the Westwood One media company, which includes CBS Sports Radio and NBC Sports Radio.
The agreement includes numerous promotional commercials and reads for the Myrtle Beach golf market over six weeks on several CBS Sports Radio and NBC Sports Radio shows.
The Hootie Ball Drop from a helicopter onto the Dye Club will take place at 2 p.m. and offer 11 prizes. Balls can be purchased for $10 each through Hootiedrop.com, and balls that land on or closest to targets will win prizes that include 2018 Hootie MAM VIP and concert packages, a four-person golf trip to Myrtle Beach and instruments and memorabilia signed by the band. People do not have to be ticketed to or attend the tournament to win.
“I think it’s fun and unique,” Golf Holiday president Bill Golden said of the ball drop. “We haven’t done that in this area. We’ll build Facebook Live around it so we’ll have a social media presence. I think it will be fun for the crowd and be another avenue for fundraising. Hopefully it becomes a tradition.”
The Hootie MAM annually raises money for junior golf and educational charities in South Carolina.
Status in Africa
Zack Byrd’s next shot at advancement in professional golf will come in Africa.
The 31-year-old Murrells Inlet resident has qualified for the Sunshine Tour based in South Africa and will spend much of 2017 playing on the south end of the African continent.
Byrd tied for 22nd Friday in the finals of the tour’s Qualifying Tournament at Randpark Golf Club in Randpark, South Africa, to earn full status on the tour. The top 30 earned full cards.
Byrd shot rounds 73, 69, 69 and 68 in the first four rounds to move into a tie for seventh before a cut to the low 60 scores was made prior to the final round, in which he shot a 74 to tie for 22nd at 7-under 353.
“This one has got me quite a bit more excited than anything else I’ve ever had status-wise,” said Byrd, who had full status on PGA Tour Canada in 2015 and had conditional status on the Web.com Tour in 2012 and 2014 after twice reaching the final stage of PGA/Web.com Tour Q-School. “The opportunities it opens up are way better than PGA Tour Canada, and it is full status. This is probably the biggest step I’ve had in my career.”
Top 50 on the money list at the end of the season can get into co-sanctioned European Tour events, which could be five or six events at the beginning of the 2017-18 European Tour schedule, retain full status on the 2018 Sunshine Tour and earn invitations to a few higher purse events in Africa. “Top 50 on the money list opens a ton of doors,” Byrd said.
Byrd began the final round 9-under par and reached 10 under with a birdie on the fourth hole. But he was down to 7 under following a three-putt bogey on the 15th, and wasn’t sure he could afford another bogey with three difficult holes to close the tournament – a pair of 500-yard par-4s with difficult tee shots and 210-yard par-3. With the benefit of a little reassurance from his caddie, he managed to make three consecutive pars to secure his tour card.
“The fifth round was a little stressful,” Byrd said. “It’s the first time I’ve been in that position in a long time when it really meant a lot.”
The golf course required quick adjustments by Byrd with measurements in meters rather than yards, elevation and an unfamiliar kikuya grass. “There were a lot of adjustments to be made in two practice rounds,” Byrd said. “I just didn’t make any mistakes the first four days, that’s why I allowed myself to throw up on myself a little bit coming in.”
Byrd’s wife, Ali, is an instructor at the Steve Dresser Golf Academy at True Blue Golf Club in Pawleys Island, and the couple has a 16-month-old daughter, Payton, who has spent a lot of hours on driving ranges in a stroller as Byrd has practiced. Byrd also operates an online travel agency in addition to his touring career.
The Coastal Carolina graduate and Wachesaw Plantation member intends to play the first two events of the season, which are the Zimbabwe Open from April 20-23 and Zambia Sugar Open from April 27-30.
There are a pair of events in Swaziland two weeks apart in May followed by another event in Zambia the first week of June. Byrd, who returned to the Grand Strand on Monday, has to qualify for the Swaziland events so may not play in both, and intends to play in the fifth event in Zambia.
After that, the tour takes a break for a couple months that are winter in the Southern Hemisphere before closing the season with 13 events from late July into November.
“I plan to play eight to 10 of those events depending on where I am on the money list,” Byrd said. “I plan on not being gone more than three weeks at a time since Ali and Payton will stay in Murrells Inlet.”
He has a financial backer in Virginia Beach that will assist him with golf travel expenses, though he’s looking for additional funds to hire a reliable caddie for his tour events overseas. He’s considering entering qualifiers for the British Open and French Open, and a U.S. Open Sectionals qualifier in England, adding to his travel and schedule.
“The guy I had last week is expensive but an incredible caddie,” Byrd said. “I’m really going to try to find a company with South African ties that is looking to give endorsement money out to someone for exposure over here. Events are televised, have decent crowds and a good bit of exposure so it could help a company if I’m wearing a logo or carrying a golf bag.”
Byrd plans to play in the season opener for the Coastal Players Tour at Arcadian Shores Golf Club from April 1-2 before heading back to Africa.
World Am entries
Organizers of the 34th annual Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship will begin accepting entries for the tournament on March 29.
The early entry fee is $525 and includes at least four rounds of golf, admission into the World’s Largest 19th Hole for four nights, and a gift bag.
Players who enter by April 12 will be automatically eligible to win more than $10,000 in random drawing prizes.
The 72-hole net stroke play tournament is expected to again attract more than 3,000 golfers from across the globe and will be played Aug. 28 to Sept. 1 on approximately 60 Myrtle Beach area courses.
Players from more than 45 states and 25 countries have been entered in recent years. The event is open to all men and women 18 years of age and older, and players will be flighted based on age, gender and handicap.
The 19th hole features complimentary food and drinks, live entertainment, a golf expo, celebrity guest appearances and merchandise for sale. Visit MyrtleBeachWorldAmateur.com for more information.
S.C. wins Can-Am Matches
Murrells Inlet residents Smith Knaffle and Patrick Golden helped a team consisting of the top juniors in South Carolina retain its title in the 19th Can-Am Junior Team Matches this past weekend at Wachesaw Plantation.
The event annually pits the top eight male and top eight female junior golfers from Canada’s Ontario Province against the top eight boys and eight girls from South Carolina during Can-Am Days.
Golden teamed with Tyler Gray of Lugoff to win his Saturday four-ball match 10-8 and halved his Sunday singles match against Zack Mason 9-9, while Knaffle and Jodee Tindal of Rock Hill earned 8.5 of 18 points in their four-ball match and Knaffle won her singles match 9.5-8.5 over Alyssa DiMarcantonio.
Ontario held a 73-71 lead following Saturday’s team matches but South Carolina won Sunday’s singles matches 148-140 to earn a narrow 219-213 win.
It was the closest finish in the competition since 2010, when the Golf Association of Ontario juniors hoisted the Joseph T. Simons Can Am Trophy.
Wachesaw Plantation has hosted the matches since 2002 and has agreed to host the event through 2018 with the support of its members. The team from South Carolina is selected using the S.C. Heritage Classic Foundation Junior Rankings.
Monday After the Masters participants
Celebrities: Former or current NFL players: Tajh Boyd, Jimbo Covert, Jim McMahon, Corey Miller, George Rogers, Sterling Sharpe, Bruce Smith; former NBA player Rick Barry; musicians: Mark Bryan, Drew Copeland, Patrick Davis, Shawn Drover, Joey Fatone, Dean Felber, Colt Ford, Joe Horowitz, Jack Ingram, Aaron Lewis, Edwin McCain, Nathan Morris, Preston Pohl, Darius Rucker, MC Serch, Jim Sonefeld, Cole Swindell, Dan Tyminski; television personalities: Jim Cantore, Dan Patrick, Mike Golic, Mike Golic Jr.; former NHL player Grant Fuhr; former MLB player Eric Gagne; actors: Debbe Dunning, Jackie Flynn, Joe Murray, Kevin Sorbo, Paula Trickey, Gary Valentine.
Golf professionals: Woody Austin, Matt Bettencourt, Kent Bulle, John Daly, Chris DiMarco, Ken Duke, Robert Gamez, Tom Gillis, Chesson Hadley, Adam Hart, Billy Horschel, Billy Kratzert, Nancy Lopez, Davis Love III, Troy Merritt, Davie Mobley, Tim O’Neal, Dicky Pride, Charlie Rymer, Mark Silvers, Paige Spiranac, Darron Stiles, Kyle Thompson, DJ Trahan, Will Wilcox.