In an effort to grow the game and increase participation locally, marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday is launching the Project Golf nonprofit foundation and initiative.
Golf Holiday president Bill Golden likens the project to a marketing cooperative model for player development.
“As a leader in golf and golf tourism marketing, with all we do as a community, why wouldn’t we have a collaborative player development effort?” Golden said. “We should have been doing this, now we’re going to start and almost be a whiteboard of sorts for ideas.
“We want to focus energy and attention on player development, and that player development could be anywhere from a junior golfer all the way through to millennials and adults. What else can we do in the marketplace here to help develop and facilitate additional players and additional rounds of golf.”
An early focus for Project Golf, which isn’t yet incorporated and will include the website www.projectgolf.org, will be to assist the myriad of junior golf programs in the area and assimilate them all in one place where they can be marketed and promoted.
The junior golf programs in the area include The First Tee local chapters, PGA Junior League Golf, the local S.C. Junior Golf Association chapter, Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Foundation, and S.C. Golf Center junior series.
“We want to do two things. One, have a home for all the initiatives that are currently going on, put them all in one place, one website and one central location for us to help promote it,” Golden said. “And two, let’s collaborate with the local industry to create new programs and develop new ways to engage golfers.”
Marketing the game as a fun, engaging activity will be a Project Golf component. The initiative will promote nine-hole and shorter rounds, and tie social activities and events to golf, such as a nine-hole round combined with a craft beer tasting, concert, party, etc.
Golf Holiday doesn’t believe access and cost are an issue in this market, as locals have access to affordable rounds. So a couple of the inherent deterrents to the game in other markets aren’t comparable factors here.
Golf Holiday plans to have a strong social media presence so Project Golf can reach the desired young prospective players, particularly juniors and millennials.
“We’re not trying to create professional golfers, we’re trying to create lifetime golfers. We want to get the millennials more involved,” Golden said. “There’s really nothing speaking to them in this marketplace right now, and shame on us. We need to try to develop some programs to get them out and play some golf and have some fun on a golf course.
“There are a lot of people in town that maybe we can attract to the golf course with some activity, some social event, some unique golf day of sorts to get people to the golf course and maybe break down some of the misconceptions about the game and get more people involved and engaged.”
Instruction will be among the project’s focuses and include collaborating with instructors to help promote programs, create additional programs, provide clinics and customize instruction for the level of play.
“We feel we need to break down the walls around instruction, break down the intimidation factor people may see or feel when they think about instruction,” Golden said. “Why more golfers don’t get instruction? We know if you play better and enjoy the game more, you’re going to play more whether you’re a beginner or 2 handicap.”
Golden said Project Golf is interested in collaborating with regional and national golf associations such as the PGA of America, Carolinas PGA, state golf organizations, etc. “We’re looking for the best and brightest ideas as to how we can do this,” Golden said. “With this group we’ll have a home for these ideas and to be able to brainstorm and create better opportunities for people to play golf.”
Golf Holiday’s board of directors approved in May the creation of Project Golf. The organization is in the process of creating the nonprofit entity and its board of directors. Golf Holiday will help fund Project Golf for now but hopes it will soon be self-sufficient with a full-time administrator. “We don’t want this to fail for the lack of manpower, staffing and financial reasons. We want this to be part of the Grand Strand for years to come,” Golden said.
The mission includes further branding golf in Myrtle Beach.
The first event under the Project Golf initiative is a fundraising July 24 acoustic Jam For Juniors Concert at the House of Blues at Barefoot Landing featuring Josh Kelley, Javier Colon, and Sister Hazel band members Ken Block and Drew Copeland. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets start at $35 at HOB or on the eventbrite.com website.
Proceeds will benefit Project Golf and the First Tee of the Grand Strand youth development organization, which is holding its annual Future Generations Tournament at Caledonia Golf and Fish Club the next day.
The four musicians are expected to participate in the golf tournament, which will also feature Golf Channel personalities Kelly Tilghman of North Myrtle Beach and Charlie Rymer of Fort Mill.
The Future Generations tournament has an entry fee of $250 per player or corporate sponsorships beginning at $1,000 for a three-player team. Foursomes consists of three registrants with a First Tee youth. The format is a scramble and entry includes a logoed golf shirt and hat, Jimmy John’s box lunch, dinner from Maxwell’s Barbeque and silent auction opportunities.
The First Tee of the Grand Strand recently began its six $10 summer series events on Saturdays at Midway Par 3, Cane Patch par 3 and Harbour View Par 3, and began a program solely for girls with instruction from former pro golfer Lauren Hunt Fournier and college golfers Cameron Smith and Jasmine Chestnut.
More information can be found at www.TheFirstTeeTheGrandStrand.org.
Cudone still on top
Myrtle Beach legend Carolyn Cudone still maintains a share of a Women’s South Carolina Golf Association record that was threatened last week.
Nichols native and Greenville resident Dawn Woodard attempted to win her eighth WSCGA Amateur Championship at Thornblade Club last Monday through Wednesday. Woodard finished 15th, 13 shots behind winner Reona Hirai, a rising senior at Furman from Summerville, with a 15-over 231.
Woodard tied Cudone's record of seven titles last year. The record has stood for 40 years, as Cudone won seven straight on seven different golf courses from 1970-76.
Woodard, a three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Am medalist who last month reached the match play portion with partner Meghan Stasi of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club, has won seven of the past 10 S.C. Women’s Amateur titles.
This year’s WSCGA event featured the strongest field in the 69-year history of the tournament with 43 women, college players and juniors with handicaps of 5.0 or less.
The late Vicki Hillen of Murrells Inlet won five titles between 1993-99 and other past winners include former LPGA Tour champions Beth Daniel and Sherri Turner.
In addition to her WSCGA success, Cudone won five consecutive U.S. Women's Senior Amateur Championships from 1968-72 and started the Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Program. She died at the age of 90 in 2009, a week after her induction as part of the first class into the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame.
Smith headed home
A national golf industry veteran is retiring and moving back to Myrtle Beach.
Craig Smith, who spent nearly 30 years working in the golf industry including the past three as the director of communications and media relations for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) based in Lawrence, Kan., has announced his retirement effective later this month.
Smith handled golf accounts for the Brandon Agency in Myrtle Beach before joining GCSAA in May 2014. He helped strengthen and refine the association’s external communication efforts, including the redesign and relaunch of the association’s member-focused weekly e-newsletter “GCSAA This Week,” and directly target golfers with programs including the “Thank a Superintendent” campaign that entered its third season in 2017.
“The golf industry has been my career and GCSAA has been a wonderful part of it,” Smith said.
Smith spent 20 years as the director of media relations for the United States Golf Association (USGA), overseeing the media operations and communications for the USGA’s 13 national championships.
He will maintain a connection to the GCSAA’s communication efforts in retirement, as he will help manage on an interim basis the association’s relationship with PGA Tour Radio on Sirius/XM satellite radio and the “Katrek and Maginnes On Tap” show, which features interviews with superintendents and others in the golf course management industry at 6 p.m. each Wednesday.
Champs back at Hackler
Smith Knaffle of Murrells Inlet is returning to the General Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina this weekend to defend her 2016 Carolinas Junior PGA Championship. The tournament is being played Saturday and Sunday.
Knaffle, who turns 16 next Tuesday, shot a 1-over 76-69–145 last year at the Hackler Course to win by a shot, then shot rounds of 76 and 77 at the national PGA Junior Championship at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumfort, R.I., to miss the cut to the final round.
Clemson commitment Zack Gordon of Gaffney is also returning to defend his 2016 boys CPGA Junior title.
The boys and girls winners and runners-up this weekend 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 Grand Strand is well represented in the tournament. Among the 110 boys entered are Braeden Barnett of Galivants Ferry, Kevin Burris of Conway, Jackson Cole of Pawleys Island, Patrick Golden of Murrells Inlet, Matthew Griego of North Myrtle Beach, Zack Kirtz of Longs, and Myrtle Beach residents Holden Grigg, Christopher Fortenberry, Carlos Garre, Chap Hutchinson and Grant Hutchinson.
Joining Knaffle in the field of 34 girls are Madison Elliott of North Myrtle Beach, Mary Kate Richardson of Galivants Ferry, Katie Smith of Murrells Inlet and Jordan White of Myrtle Beach.
Players ages 10-18 from the Carolinas are eligible and tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. both days. 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.
Hurricane on way
The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour will be holding its second tournament in two weeks on the Grand Strand with the Stars and Stripes Junior Classic on July 1-2 at International World Tour Golf Links.
The entry fee is $199 for members and $249 for non-members.
Upcoming Hurricane events include the 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.
The tour, which is headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., is holding 275 events in 32 states this year. More information on the tournaments and a full schedule is available at https://hjgt.org.
In the Hurricane Junior Tour’s Brooks Brothers Open at International Club of Myrtle Beach this past weekend, Conway’s Burris lost in a playoff for the overall boys title to Thomas Henson of Hermann, Mo., after shooting an 83-70–153, while NMB’s Griego finished third at 154. The Boys Under 10 division winner was Javier Santoloya of North Myrtle Beach.