The Mel Sole Golf School, which regularly earns five-star ratings on TripAdvisor and has been named one of Golf Magazine’s Top 25 Golf Schools in the U.S. since 1999, is returning to Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club.
It is expected to reopen Saturday at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
It’s a return home for Sole, who first opened the Phil Ritson-Mel Sole Golf School at Pawleys Plantation in 1991 and operated a school there until 2016, when he was forced to relocate both of his schools from Pawleys Plantation and the Grande Dunes Resort Course.
Sole, a South Africa native and 51-year instructor, has been at Tupelo Bay Golf Center in Garden City for the past year and also opened a second Grand Strand location last August at Sea Trail Golf Resort & Convention Center in Sunset Beach, N.C.
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But he was invited back to Pawleys Plantation by course owner and operator Founders Group International, which acquired Pawleys Plantation in April 2015.
“We’re thrilled to be back at Pawleys Plantation. It has been our home for 25 1/2 years,” Sole said. “Along with having a championship golf course for golfers to practice on, the Pawleys Plantation training facility has everything we need to provide the best service.
“… The support I’ve gotten from the members at Pawleys Plantation and even others in the golf industry has been amazing.”
PGA of America Class A teaching pro David Olberding, who has been with the Sole Golf School for more than 20 years, is the lead instructor at the Sea Trail school and Sole has assistant Lance Laws at Pawleys Plantation.
Darren deMaille is filling the void left by Sole at Tupelo Bay and will be opening his second Double-D Golf Academy on the Strand to go along with one he has at the Harbour View golf facility in Little River. Tupelo and Harbour View have the same owner.
“I’ll have both ends of the beach covered,” said deMaille, who moved to the Strand last year after teaching for several years on Long Island. “It’s always been the goal to expand and I started to outgrow Harbour View pretty quickly and it’s still growing here.”
deMaille will bounce between his two locations and has hired full-time Class A PGA professionals Mark Thompson and Josh Slawiak as assistants at each facility.
His Tupelo Bay location will feature a club repair and fitting area. deMaille specializes in instruction for golfers with disabilities and has a ParaGolfer cart that allows even partially paralyzed golfers to play. He’s attempting to acquire a second ParaGolfer to have one at each facility.
Positive feedback from students has resulted in Sole’s school receiving four of TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence awards since 2012.
There are six Mel Sole Golf School locations, including Furman University Golf Club in Greenville, Holiday Valley Resort Golf Course in Ellicottville, N.Y., Club de Golf Malinalco in Malinalco, Mexico, and Country Club de Chapala in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Sole has taught many notable golfers including former N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano, former ESPN commentator John Saunders, a German Olympic Golf Medalist and world billiard’s champion Ewa Mataya Laurance of Conway. Sole schools have a maximum of four students per class.
Video contest returns
The Myrtle Beach Golf is Great Video Contest is back for a second year, with another $10,000 and Grand Strand golf vacation on the line for the winning submission.
Marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday runs the contest. The period for video entries is June 5 to July 31, and a winner will be likely be announced by mid-August and come on a fall golf trip in October or November.
Videos can be between 30 seconds and 3 minutes and express why players love the game. Videos are submitted by being posted on YouTube and sharing the link on an entry form at www.golfisgreat.com. Adding a #GolfisGreat hashtag allows others to view the videos in one internet location.
The public will be allowed to vote online for a top 10 and a winner will be chosen among them.
“We’re tying to get people excited about the game of golf and this is a great way to offer $10,000 and a trip to Myrtle Beach for winning the video contest,” Golf Holiday marketing director Jenna Hottel said. “It’s encouraging people to show that the game of golf is really fun and how much fun you can have with it.”
Last year’s inaugural contest attracted 56 videos and was won by television sports anchor and reporter David Watkins of Plano, Texas, and three of his friends with a three-minute compilation of parodied scenes from three of their favorite golf movies: Tin Cup, Happy Gilmore and Caddyshack.
A highlight video of their Strand golf trip is available on this year’s contest webpage, and the contest is being promoted on Golf Channel and on Golf Holiday and partner digital and social media platforms.
“The video of the guys coming here shows how awesome it was and how much fun they had, things to do on the course and off the course, and really showcases the camaraderie and fun you can have with your buddies,” Hottel said. “The amount of creativity we received from all the past entries is really cool, too.”
The 11th annual Rich Jacobs Memorial Grand Strand Pro-Am was held Wednesday at Arrowhead Country Club, and there will be some changes to help the event raise more money before the 12th annual tournament in 2018.
The event had another full field of 32 teams featuring a club or teaching professional and three amateurs each, and enjoyed another strong turnout by volunteers and the golf community.
The event has raised more than $150,000 in its first 10 years, according to Mark Stoneking of The Golf Desk package provider, a tournament organizer. Jacobs, a former owner of The Golf Desk, started and ran the tournament to raise money for the Helping Hands locations on the Strand through the men’s club at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in North Myrtle Beach before he died in 2013.
Stoneking plans to raise funds directly for the Helping Hands next year and a tournament board is being created to seek additional sponsorships from area businesses.
He said the board will include Stoneking, Episcopal Church member Gary Kumerfield and Randy Holmes, a former close friend of Jacobs and former NYC firefighter who was a 911 first responder. Arrowhead head pro Jake Benton will also be involved in tournament planning.
“Those guys can figure out a way to build this, because I’m kind of stagnant,” Stoneking said. “We raise $15,000 to $20,000 per year every year, and for me to take the next step up I have to go outside the golf community to start raising money. The golf community money is getting tight.”
Derek Watson of Myrtle Beach earned medalist honors Wednesday by a stroke over Jeff Pfeiffer of Bald Head Island Club and Charles Chapman of Cheraw Country Club with a 66, and his team including Robby Porter, Nick Krueger and Brian Gornto also won the team title. A $1,500 shootout for the top 10 pros was won by Ryan Tyndall of The Reserve Club in Pawleys Island, who defeated Will Akers of Akers Discount Golf in a chip-off.
Late longtime Myrtle Beach area golf professional Gene Weldon was remembered Saturday with a tournament and the unveiling of a bench in his honor on the tee box of the par-3 fifth hole at Rivers Edge Golf Club in Shallotte, N.C.
The tournament and purchase of the bench was organized by former Thistle Golf Club members Mike Travers, Ralph Eckley and Ronnie Hahn.
The bench reads: Gene Weldon 1948-2017 A Legend “If You Play Golf – You Are My Friend.”
Weldon, who died in January after a battle with cancer, was a golf professional on the Grand Strand for 44 years, most recently serving as East Coast Golf Management’s director of new business development. River’s Edge is an East Coast course.
He was the only head pro at Gator Hole Golf Club for the course’s entire 20-year existence from 1980-99, and he spent nine years as the director of golf at Thistle late in his career.
Approximately 30 former Thistle members contributed to the purchase of the bench and took part in Saturday’s tournament, which also featured eight pros who were Weldon’s friends. His son Wil played and widow Geri took part in the bench dedication.
Weldon will be recognized again next month, as the First Tee of the Grand Strand’s Future Generations Tournament at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club on July 25 is in his honor. Weldon was an ardent supporter of youth golf and the area’s First Tee chapters and their programs.
Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday president Bill Golden is being honored next month as the Father of the Year for the 20th annual National Father & Son Team Classic from July 20-22 on several Myrtle Beach area courses.
Golden and his wife of 23 years, Amy, have sons Patrick and Will, and he introduced them to golf and coached their youth baseball teams. He has played in the Father-Son tournament with both and he may try to play with both for at least one round each this year.
Will is attending The Citadel while Patrick has committed to the men’s golf team at College of Charleston.
“We’ll maybe tag team it with the two sons and have some fun with it,” Golden said. “It’s a great honor, but those guys have a pretty good history of people they’ve honored, and I’m honored and humble to be part of that group and be considered Father of the Year.”
Golden was selected by the executive tournament committee of Family Golf Week presented by PGA Tour Superstore, which includes mother-daughter and father-daughter tournaments. Past recipients include John Rhodes, Gene Weldon, Major Dan Rooney, Charlie Thrash, George Hilliard, Clay Brittain, Rev. Tom Brittain, Joe Louis Barrow and Mickey McCamish.
On the board
Golden has recently accepted an invitation to join the board of directors for the Carol S. Petrea Youth Golf Foundation, which oversees both the First Tee of Brunswick County and First Tee of the Grand Strand youth development organizations.
“We’ve tried to get more involved with The First Tee and help [executive director] Rich [Abraham] with the local chapter here on the Grand Strand,” Golden said. “The First Tee is important. … They continue to impact Horry and Georgetown counties, which they’re doing a really good job of now. It’s a matter of growing that and tying The First tee into a bigger player development initiative. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can contribute.”
Ellen Gregory is the foundation’s executive director, and the board is chaired by Lindell Bradley and generally consists of between 10 and 12 volunteer members, a few of whom are employed in the golf business. Other new board members include Vin Petreccia of Pawleys Island and Brunswick County residents Larry Hershoff and Russ Yarrow.