The private Wachesaw Plantation in Pawleys Island is making a concerted effort to grow the game, get more juniors involved and give them more opportunities.
The effort involves the professional staff as well as the club’s members, and is multi-faceted.
It includes hosting First Tee of the Grand Strand instruction, offering free memberships to local high school golf team members, being the home of the St. James High girls team, holding junior tournaments, and sponsoring and coaching a pair of PGA Junior League Golf teams.
“We’re really trying to get youth involved in golf and grow the game of golf. We’re trying to do our part with that,” said Vin Petreccia, lead coach for Waccamaw’s programming for The First Tee, vice president of the club and the chairman of the club’s golf committee. “I think it’s just bringing the ideas to the club and the membership gets excited about it. It just seems we have a lot of good people who are interested in young people.”
We’re really trying to get youth involved in golf and grow the game of golf. We’re trying to do our part with that. I think it’s just bringing the ideas to the club and the membership gets excited about it. It just seems we have a lot of good people who are interested in young people,”
Wachesaw Plantation Club vice president Vin Petreccia
The club hosts eight-week sessions for The First Tee youth development organization in both the spring and fall from 4-5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays on the driving range and parts of the course. The sessions attracted up to 27 participants this past spring, and instructor Emma Schultz has a large girls following.
“I brought it to the board and they thought it was a great idea,” Petreccia said. “The membership really took hold of it. We’ve had all kinds of donations from the membership to the First Tee.”
The St. James girls team is entering its third season of holding home matches at Wachesaw Plantation. Petreccia said the proposal was approved unanimously by the club’s nine-member board.
This year Wachesaw has given free memberships to every varsity player from St. James High, Waccamaw High and Lowcountry Prep in Pawleys Island. They are allowed to use all practice facilities and play any afternoon, and if they move on to play for a college team the privileges will be extended.
Head pro Joe Gagliano and assistant Josh Bialowans coach two PGA Junior League teams, Gagliano also runs two youth all-sport camps at the club, and the professional staff assists with First Tee instruction.
The club has hosted the Can-Am Junior Team Matches through the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation since 2002, and has recently signed an agreement to continue hosting the matches for the next five years. The matches feature the top boys and girls juniors from Canada’s Ontario Province against the top juniors from South Carolina. Member Bill Gevers spearheads the club’s operation of the event. The club holds a fundraising junior-am prior to the event featuring four members playing with a Canadian junior.
“It’s such a big hit we have to take reservations and turn members away,” Petreccia said. “They’re fantastic kids. They’re great to play with, and they’re really good.”