The World Long Drive Championship has become quite a success and side show in the world of golf, with qualifiers, a hefty purse and coverage by Golf Channel now staples of the annual event.
A pair of Grand Strand residents are creating an amateur version of the competition that they hope will gain traction this year, while also bringing added attention to an existing long drive competition featuring players with disabilities.
Co-directors Jason Dores and Jeff Gilder are holding the inaugural Amateur Long Drive World Championship on Aug. 25-26 at Legends Golf Resort, and it will be paired with The ParaLong Drive Cup, which Dean Jarvis of Maryville, Tenn., created in 2013 and continues to operate.
“I asked people for the last year or so about the idea of an amateur long drive and everybody said it was a bad idea, so I kind of left it hanging there,” Gilder said. “In January I said the heck with it, I’m going to do it … and this thing took off.”
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The entry fee is $50 and includes a polo shirt and Aug. 25 pizza party, and players who don’t qualify on their first six drives can repeatedly re-enter for $35 each occurrence. Entries will be accepted through the qualifying rounds on Aug. 26.
Gilder said he has more than 60 competitors entered in the two companion events combined from countries including Australia, England, Canada and South Africa as well as states across the U.S. including California, Utah, Michigan and Minnesota.
Organizers have positioned the events the Friday and Saturday before the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship and hope the long drive and World Am will symbiotically attract players.
Gilder expects to have significant walk-up entries. “We put it prior to the World Amateur hoping some of those guys would come,” Gilder said. “We’re not associated in any way with them but we thought it would be a good benefit that might help the World Am and help us.”
Both Dores and Gilder are already heavily involved in the golf industry on the Strand.
Dores is a director of both the professional SwingThought Tour and Myrtle Beach-Wilmington chapter of the Golfweek Amateur Tour and Golfweek Senior Amateur Tour.
Gilder is a founder of the iNetGolf web development and digital marketing company, The Golf Director vacation company, and Myrtle Beach Golf Channel, which features Grand Strand-related online golf programming and content. Gilder has clients throughout the world of golf.
The amateur competition will have male and female divisions for youth (under 16), adult (16-49), senior (50-64) and super senior (over 64). Gilder is planning a PGA club pro division as well.
The ParaLong competitors are separated by their different abilities.
Full event details are on amateurlongdrive.com, which will live-stream the competition on Aug. 25-26. Competitors can also register by calling 843-272-1919.
The event will include amateur qualifying rounds and ParaLong competition rounds on Aug. 25, and additional amateur qualifying rounds on Aug. 26 followed by competition rounds and championship rounds. There will be two amateur finalists per division.
The event will conclude with men’s and women’s open championships that will pit ParaLong competitors against the top-driving amateur competitors, regardless of age. The open champions will receive belts that will resemble boxing championship belts.
Organizers have contracted with Lucky Dog Productions of Conway for a live television broadcast on WWMB-CW 21 from 5-6 p.m. Aug. 26. The Legends range can accommodate drives of about 380 yards and will have bleachers and TV towers.
Gilder said he has been contacted by Golf Channel/NBC Sports, which expressed an interest in meeting to discuss a potential partnership next year.
Gilder and Dores expect interest in the amateur long drive championship to increase considerably next year. Dores has contacted the directors of 42 other Golfweek Amateur Tour chapters across the country and he believes they will all hold long drive qualifiers.
Dores held a qualifier in connection with the Golfweek Invitational Pro-Am at TPC Myrtle Beach on Father’s Day weekend and had four players qualify with drives exceeding 320 yards.
“Instantly within one year we can go to 42 qualifiers just in Golfweek towns. They’re on board,” Dores said. “I think the potential to grow with us doing that many qualifiers next year, and it being a week prior to the World Am with that type of volume … there’s no telling if players will extend their trip four, five or six days to enter a competition that is going to be on a big stage.”
Gilder said other 2018 qualifiers are planned in Mesquite, Nev., and Gulfport, Miss., and organizers are working with The First Tee of the Grand Strand to attract junior competitors this year.
Jarvis said the most competitors he’s had at a single ParaLong Drive Championship is 42, and athletes from 10 different countries have entered past events.
“We’re hoping with the international airport there in Myrtle Beach we’ll get more international athletes in the future,” Jarvis said. “And being just before the World Amateur, our long-range thinking is we’ll be able to get some elite-level athletes from around the world that will want to do ParaLong Drive and the World Amateur.”
Jarvis, a State Farm Insurance agent, is an above-the-knee amputee. He created the Amputee Long Drive Championship in 2013, then changed the name and eligibility after being contacted by others with disabilities asking about an event they could participate in.
The ParaLong Drive is now essentially open to anyone with a disability and has different divisions based on player abilities.
“At this point we’ve been able to integrate every single division in with no problem,” Jarvis said. “I try to get it initially, but it might take me one event to get you properly identified from a competition standpoint.”
Gilder first learned of the ParaLong competition at a golf conference in Atlantic City around 2012-13 and was interested in the concept. He has since attended several ParaLong Drive competitions and attempted to bring attention to it through online marketing.
“I kept telling Dean if we could get him in Myrtle Beach I could do a better job because we can put more resources into it,” Gilder said. “Some of the stories you see coming out of that are amazing.”
Jarvis hopes to eventually get a long drive competition added to the sports in the Paralympics.
“It’s unusual for me to work in a partnership relationship, but so far it has worked out really good,” Jarvis said.
AJGA at Barefoot
Some of the more talented junior golfers in the world will be on the Grand Strand next week for the American Junior Golf Association’s fourth annual AJGA Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy Junior Championship at Barefoot Resort’s Norman Course.
The AJGA is considered the most competitive junior tour in the U.S., and the tournament received the AJGA’s Most Improved Award in 2016.
A qualifier is being held Sunday and the tournament follows Monday through Thursday. The fields are closed for both.
There are 75 boys including Myrtle Beach’s Keegan Vaugh and 12 girls including Madison Elliott of Little River signed up for the qualifier, and there are 47 players in the current boys field including Holden Grigg of Myrtle Beach and 15 players in the girls field.
The qualifier and tournament fields include players from numerous states as well as Japan, China, Thailand, Myanmar, Austria, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Canada.
DeBordieu hosts juniors
DeBordieu Club in Georgetown is hosting the 11th annual Georgia-South Carolina Challenge Matches, next weekend. The event is hosted and operated by the Women’s S.C. Golf Association Junior Golf Foundation.
The matches feature many of the top junior girls in each state, with invitations based on the finishes in each state’s respective Junior Girls’ State Amateur Championship.
The S.C. team includes Gracyn Burgess of Lexington, Katie Whitfield of Clemson, Rachel Rich of Mount Pleasant, Jodee Tindal of Rock Hill, Baylee Evans of Lancaster and Isabella Rawl of Lexington. There are six singles matches between the juniors on both Saturday and Sunday.
Hurricane is back
The registration deadline for the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s Myrtle Beach Junior Open is Wednesday. The tournament is being held at True Blue Golf Club from Aug. 12-13 and the entry fee is $199 for tour members and $249 for non-members.
Players can enter or receive more information at hjgt.org. The next Hurricane Tour event on the Grand Strand will be the Myrtle Beach Junior Challenge from Sept. 23-24 at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club’s West Course. It is a team event with five-player teams, and players can register as a completed team or will be placed on a team.
Lockwood Folly Country Club in Supply, N.C., has a new clubhouse this summer that overlooks three converging bodies of water at the course’s finish.
The new 14,000-square-foot clubhouse held a grand opening celebration in May and features a full-service restaurant overlooking the Lockwood Folly River, Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean. The clubhouse also includes banquet facilities for weddings, tournaments and meetings.
The semi-private club with more than 150 members replaced its greens last summer with Sunday ultradwarf Bermudagrass.