The Dunes Golf and Beach Club is ready to host a national championship.
Greens are smooth and fast, tees, fairways and bunkers are in immaculate condition and rough is thick and will be approximately 1 1/2 inches deep for Saturday’s first round of the third U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
“The golf course is absolutely perfect. It’s in premium, top-notch course condition,” said Dunes Club head professional Dennis Nichol. “[Superintendent] Steve [Hamilton] and his crew have done a great job getting the course where it needs to be.”
The first two rounds of best ball stroke play will feature 64 two-player teams, of which 32 will qualify for Monday’s opening round of match play. The second match play round and quarterfinals will be played Tuesday, and the semifinals and 18-hole championship match will be played Wednesday.
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Spectators will be allowed free of charge with parking at The Dunes Club or a nearby overflow lot. Tee times run from 7 a.m. to 1:24 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
There are 41 states and seven countries represented in the field of 128 players: Canada, England, Hong Kong, Scotland, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S.
To the chagrin of The Dunes Club officials, the tournament will not be broadcast live.
Fox Sports will film the final round for the footage to be included in a year-round wrapup show of the USGA championships that will likely air on either Fox or FoxSports1 (FS1).
Last year’s Women’s Four-Ball did not air live either, but the inaugural Four-Ball in 2015 was broadcast live and club officials were hopeful the live broadcasts for the tournament would continue.
The course yardage will vary daily but will generally be set up between 6,200 and 6,300 yards, which is more than 1,000 yards less than its maximum yardage.
Rachel Sadowski, the USGA’s director of both the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and Women’s Mid-Amateur championships, spent Monday checking green speeds and determining pin locations.
Though the PGA of America chose to use the course’s alternate par-3 14th hole, which features a pond to the left of the green, for the 2014 PGA national club pro championship, Sadowski has chosen to keep the par-3 17th hole that is part of the original design and has less danger with a pair of bunkers fronting a slightly elevated green.
“I just wanted to get a good variety in the par-3s, and it will play as the longest par-3 so that’s the one I chose,” said Sadowski, who was recruited from England to play golf at Coastal Carolina from 2004-08 under her maiden name Rachel Graves.
The only South Carolina player in the field, Nichols native and 1992 Mullins High graduate Dawn Woodard of Greenville, is paired with Meghan Stasi of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion. They comprise the only team that will be competing intact in their third straight women’s four-ball, and reached the quarterfinals in 2015.
Woodard, a three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Am medalist, said she’ll likely interact with many of the younger players and offer some advice if asked, at least during practice leading up to the opening round.
“I think up until Saturday morning when it’s time to play we’re willing to help and do any of that, but come Saturday morning Meghan and I are both here to win a championship,” Woodard said. “I think once we’re here and practice is over and it’s time to play golf, they’re all competitors.”
The tournament field includes players as young as 12 and old as 70.
The event has been dominated by junior golfers, as each of the first two winning teams were comprised of high school students.
Both the 2016 champions and runners-up are in the field. Texas high school teens Hailee Cooper of Montgomery and Kaitlyn Papp of Austin, who are now ages 17 and 18 and have both verbally committed to the University of Texas, outlasted now 14-year-old Californians Brianna Navarrosa and Angelina Kim in 19 holes at Streamsong Blue in Florida.
There are 17 teams consisting of current or former college teammates between the ages of 18 and 24, but most of the top collegiate golfers – and therefore most of the top women’s amateur golfers – are competing in the NCAA championship that concludes Wednesday in Illinois and are not entered.
Sadowski said the tournament was not created for them.
“When it’s played in the spring the the college players are [busy], we really thought this was a window for an opportunity to put this championship for players who aren’t competing every week in college and junior tournaments,” Sadowski said. “I think when it was initially created we wanted to make it for mid-amateur players. We’ve got junior players and college players competing, but that’s not the main determining factor for the selection of the dates. It’s really more where it fits into our calendar.
“It’s really a bit of a puzzle getting all of the events to fit and this one really works well in the spring to start off our season.”
The tournament will have April dates in both 2018 and 2019. Players had to have their entries in by last August before the start of qualifying, and the USGA heard from several players after the deadline who were interested in playing.
Among the many championships hosted by The Dunes Club are the 1962 U.S. Women’s Open won by Murle Lindstrom and the 1977 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur won by Dorothy Porter – both USGA events – the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship won by Michael Block, the 1973 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament won by Ben Crenshaw, and the Senior (Champions) Tour Championship from 1994-99.
The USGA has previously held 16 championships in South Carolina. Myrtlewood Golf Club hosted the 1978 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship won by Kelly Fuiks, and in 2019, the Country Club of Charleston will be hosting the USGA’s biggest women’s event, the U.S. Women’s Open. The club hosted the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Players in the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championship at The Dunes Club beginning Saturday will walk and either have caddies, use pull carts or carry their own bags.
Nichol said the club has fielded about 20 caddie requests, and caddies will include Dunes Club members, Myrtle Beach High and Waccamaw High team members, and students at the Myrtle Beach campus of the Golf Academy of America.
Bill Golden, president of the marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, caddied in his youth and will give it another go with Stasi, and his son Patrick, who has committed to play at College of Charleston in the fall, will also caddie.
“I thought it would be something great to do, help out the event and get up and close to some high-level golf, so I’m looking forward to it,” Bill Golden said.
Golden caddied from the age of 12 through college, rising to assistant caddie master at the Country Club of Darien and also caddying at Woodway Country Club in Darien, Conn. He looped for some executives in the publishing industry as well as other influential businessmen who worked in New York City.
“I made a lot of contacts that proved to help me in my career down the road,” said Golden, who laments the decline of caddie programs across the country.
Byrd still hot
Coastal Carolina graduate Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet followed up his runner-up finish in a Sunshine Tour event with a fifth-place result this past weekend in the Lombard Insurance Classic at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club in Swaziland.
The Sunshine Tour is based in South Africa.
Byrd opened with a 9-under-par 63 to share the first-round lead and followed with rounds of 69 and 67 for a 17-under 199 total that was two shots shy of a playoff. Byrd earned $3,200 and is sixth on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit with about $13,100 earned in four tournaments.
With a week between Sunshine tournaments, Byrd will play an event Wednesday and Thursday on the Big Easy Tour – the Sunshine’s secondary feeder tour – in Kempton Park near Joburg, S.A., before returning to the Sunshine Tour next week for the Zambia Open in Kitwe, Zambia.
CPGA Jr. on tap
Players have until midnight June 8 to register for the Carolinas Junior PGA Championship, which is being played June 24-25 at the General Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina University.
Registration must be done online at www.carolinas.pga.com. The entry fee of $110 includes lunch and range balls each day. Players ages 10-18 from the Carolinas are eligible.
The Hackler Course is expected to be set up at about 6,600 yards for the boys championship flight and 5,550 yards for girls.
The boys and girls winners and runners-up will qualify to participate in the PGA of America’s Junior Championship at the Country Club of St. Albans in St. Louis. The girls national championship is July 18-21 and the boys is July 31-Aug. 3.
The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour has held one event this year on the Grand Strand at Prestwick Country Club in March and has four more scheduled this year.
The next tournament is the Myrtle Beach Junior Challenge on June 17-18 at the International Club of Myrtle Beach, which has a June 7 entry deadline. The entry fee is $199 for members and $249 for non-members.
Upcoming Hurricane events include the Stars and Stripes Junior Classic on July 1-2 at International World Tour Golf Links, Myrtle Beach Junior Open on Aug. 12-13 at True Blue Golf Club, and Myrtle Beach Junior Challenge on Sept. 23-24 at Myrtle Beach National’s West Course.
More information on the tournaments and a full schedule is available at https://hjgt.org.