The Grand Strand-based Sunbelt Senior Tour is staging a pair of tournaments in June at Legends Golf Resort that may attract Champions Tour and former PGA Tour members, and will have a pair of affiliated events that will give area golfers some playing opportunities.
The 14th South Carolina Senior Open will be held on the Moorland Course from June 15-17 and the Summer Solstice Championship will be played June 20-22 on the Heathland Course.
A pro-am will precede the first tournament on June 14 and the unique Hampton C. Auld Putting Championship that is open to anyone will be held on the Legends practice putting green on June 18.
Three amateurs will be paired with a Sunbelt Tour professional in the pro-am, which costs $125 per amateur or $100 for Legends Loyalty Club and Players Club members, and several noteworthy pros have joined the Sunbelt Tour in 2016.
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They include five-time PGA Tour winners Danny Edwards, Ken Green and Blaine McCallister, 2003 PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel, PGA Tour winners Guy Boros and Donnie Hammond, two-time European Tour champion Steen Tinning, Web.com Tour winners Kevin Johnson, Tim Conley, Clark Dennis and Patrick Sheehan, and Champions Tour members Gibby Gilbert III and Gene Jones.
Green is a past Ryder Cup participant who may play in one or more of the events despite recently having a second surgery on an amputated leg that was initially injured in a car accident. Champions Tour member Marco Dawson has told Sunbelt Tour founder and commissioner Don Barnes of Longs that he may participate in Sunbelt events when the Champions Tour is off.
The Champions Tour is off the week of the S.C. Senior Open and has an event that starts two days after the Summer Solstice Championship.
The putting tournament costs $100 per player and will have a single-elimination 18-hole match play format and a 64-player tournament bracket. Each player must putt out or concede each hole, and ties after 18 holes will be settled via a sudden-death playoff.
The winner will earn $2,000, the runner-up $1,000, semifinalists $500 each and quarterfinalists $250 each. Food and drink will be provided throughout the event.
Barnes won a team putting championship with the late Auld more than two decades ago and named the event in his honor. Auld was enshrined in the Carolinas PGA Hall of Fame after winning numerous CPGA major titles and finishing fifth in the 1980 U.S. Senior Open at Winged Foot.
Barnes expects many players to stay in Legends housing for the nine days that encompass the events. Entry fees for the 54-hole Sunbelt events are $700 for members and $800 for non-members, and registration begins May 1.
Net proceeds from the events will benefit the Sea Haven youth shelter home and emergency crisis center. Interested players can contact Barnes at 843-457-4030 or email@example.com.
Barnes expects a local car dealer to become a sponsor of one or more of the Legends events, and he’s looking for additional local sponsors.
“We know there’s a lot of golf in Myrtle Beach, it’s just difficult to get the type of sponsorships we need,” Barnes said. “But we knew including a good charity, if we could get the community behind it, and doing pro-ams and working hard, we’ve got a good product. We’re the only thing that’s been going for 21 years. They’ve come and gone.”
The Sunbelt Tour, celebrating its 21st year, will also finish its second consecutive season at the Surf Golf and Beach Club with the Myrtle Beach Senior Match Play sponsored by Golf & Gaming Tours of Little River from Nov. 8-10. A charitable pro-am on Nov. 7 will be used for match play seeding. Players ages 45-54 and 55-64 will compete in a pair of 16-player brackets, while players 65 and older will have an eight-player bracket.
The Sunbelt season began in late February with a $23,000 event in Melbourne, Fla., that was sponsored by a car dealership, attracted 39 players and paid $3,000 each to winners in the senior (ages 45-54) and super senior (55 and older) divisions.
The next two events in mid- to late April will be close to each other in Florida, followed by scheduled events in Alabama in May, Myrtle Beach in June, North Carolina in July, and Ohio and Niagara Falls, N.Y., in August. Barnes said sponsors are adding at least a few thousand dollars to each event, and up to $20,000.
“We made the decision last year we were not going to hold a tournament if we didn’t have sponsors,” Barnes said, “because when you try to have a tournament and you don’t have a big enough purse then you don’t get the players. They’re not happy, the golf course is not happy and we’re not happy.
“So we said if we only have eight or 10 tournaments, that’s all we’re going to have. But we’ve got 13 now.”
He expects to add two more events in September and October before the Surf Club event.
Veterans get sponsor
The Veterans Golf Classic has earned a sponsor for its 17th playing on the Strand from June 6-8.
The Disabled Veterans National Foundation has become the presenting sponsor for the event, which is expected to attract more than 400 current or former members of the U.S. military.
The DVNF provides support to disabled and at-risk veterans who leave the military wounded either physically or psychologically. It contributes financially to specific veteran organizations, provides supplemental assistance to vets in need through a Health & Comfort program, and helps vets acquire the benefits they are entitled to.
The Veterans Golf Classic is a 54-hole, two-man team event operated by marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday that flights players based on their USGA handicap and is open to all current and former members of the military and their chosen playing partner.
The entry fee is $280 and rounds have formats of best ball, combined team net and scramble.
A dozen Strand courses are hosting rounds including Rivers Edge Golf Club, Thistle Golf Club, Founders Club at Pawleys Island, Wild Wing Plantation and Wachesaw Plantation East. For more information or to register for the event, go to www.VeteransClassicGolf.com.