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Alan Blondin on Grand Strand Golf: Game loses one of its best in Boyd

There was some somberness Monday during the Carolinas PGA Merchandise Show at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center as word spread that the greatest champion in CPGA history had died.

Bob Boyd of Wilmington, N.C., who according to records won at least 26 Carolinas PGA individual and team major championships, finally succumbed to acute myeloid leukemia Monday morning.

"His numbers for Carolinas PGA majors are so far beyond anybody else, it's not even in the same breath. No one is even close," said CPGA executive director Ron Schmid.

"He represented PGA professionals so well and was such a wonderful player. His tenacity and drive to be successful - there was probably no player we ever had that wanted to play well and do the job better than Bob Boyd."

Boyd had hoped he had the disease beaten three times after being diagnosed in 2006, resuming a playing career on the European PGA Senior Tour on two occasions after arduous treatments and short periods without traces of the disease.

Some CPGA officials and members received word Sunday night during the annual awards ceremony at the convention center that Boyd might not make it through the day Monday, and it was announced Monday morning at the CPGA annual member meeting that Boyd died about 8 a.m.

Conway native Curt Sanders received the Bob Boyd CPGA Player of the Year Award on Sunday night and had some emotional words to say about the award's namesake.

"It was a very surreal situation, especially when we were awarding the Bob Boyd Player of the Year Award at the time," Schmid said.

Boyd won at least 17 CPGA individual major titles, including several on the Grand Strand. His last CPGA major came in the section's Senior Championship in 2009 at The Thistle. He did not defend in 2010 because of his schedule in Europe. After being a career club pro, Boyd gave playing as a touring pro a shot after he turned 50 and was eligible for senior tours.

Among Boyd's highlights on the European Senior Tour was a win in Spain as a 50-year-old rookie in 2005 before his cancer diagnosis, and a runner-up finish to Ian Woosnam in the 2009 Irish Seniors Open. He also won the National PGA Club Pro Championship in 1988.

"Last night Mike Harmon said he played with Bob Boyd a lot, and he said, 'Remember, I played on the PGA Tour and I played with British Open champions and U.S. Open champions, and Bob Boyd was as good as any person I've ever played with,'" Schmid said. "So I think that puts it in perspective."

Boyd's battle against cancer included just about all known forms of treatment, including bone marrow infusions. His tenacity on the golf course was transferred to his fight against cancer.

In a journal entry on the CaringBridge website, where Boyd and his family kept people up to date on his health and exploits, his wife, Pam, posted Monday morning: "I believe there was a tee time that he was trying to make [in heaven]."

CPGA show still strong

The CPGA Merchandise Show is showing only mild signs of being affected by the economy, as 205 booths were sold to 135 vendors, which is down only eight booths and about 10 vendors from 2010.

The show gives PGA pros in the Carolinas a chance to peruse and purchase products for their pro shops, and coincides with meetings and educational seminars that give them credits to either gain or retain PGA status.

Nearly 1,000 of the 1,800 pros in the Carolinas with PGA affiliation registered for the CPGA's annual meeting, and 350 registered for educational seminars. Mike Breed, an instructor regularly featured on Golf Channel, will give today's three-hour teaching summit. Former Tiger Woods teacher Hank Haney was featured last year.

"This show is always going to draw a lot of people because we have 1,800 members and they all need to get things done for the year," said CPGA media and marketing director Kate Anderson. "It does really allow them to do everything they need to do for the coming year and they get to take advantage of being among their peers."

Activities associated with the merchandise show teed off Saturday when an estimated 1,300 people took part in the three-hour CPGA Play Golf America Day at Grande Dunes despite the event being held the same day as the Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon. It featured the free hitting of demo clubs and equipment from 12 golf equipment manufacturers, and free individual 10-minute instructions from about 45 CPGA pros.

The CPGA accepted donations for the Myrtle Beach Haven shelter on the range and filled three barrels within an hour with items such as nonperishable food, clothing, blankets and personal hygiene products. "It's the first time we tried to do this so we didn't know how it was going to go," Anderson said. "So we were pretty excited about that."

TaylorMade's white is hot

Getting a lot of the buzz at both the merchandise show and Play Golf America Day was TaylorMade's new R11 driver, which is white.

The new driver was officially launched to the public on Feb. 4 and is already back ordered. Myrtle Beach resident Dustin Johnson and numerous other PGA Tour pros have given the white clubs notoriety by putting them in play this year.

A line formed at the TaylorMade tent on the Grande Dunes range Saturday. "They were asking for more space and we couldn't give them more space," Anderson said.

The R11 features TaylorMade's new adjustable sole plate technology, which allows players to adjust face angle and loft independently. A player can adjust the face angle by adjusting the height of the sole plate to one of three possible levels using a specially-made wrench, changing the way the face of the clubhead sets up when a golfer rests the sole on the ground just prior to address.

The drivers still also contain Adjustable Weight Technology in the back of the heads, and Flight Control Technology, which allows a player to change the loft by plus or minus 1 degree at the point the shaft meets the head.

R11 line consists of drivers, fairway woods in five lofts, and a rescue club that doesn't feature the adjustable sole plate.

TaylorMade says the white color can have a slight benefit by eliminating reflections of the sun known as "hot spots" off the top of the clubhead. But the biggest reason for the change was probably marketing, and it has been a hit probably beyond even the expectations of TaylorMade executives.

"The response has been unbelievable," said Bryan Sasek, TaylorMade account executive for the Coastal Carolina and Coastal Georgia regions. "Having 20 people line up to hit a driver, I've never seen it before in my career of 10 years as a rep. I've never seen at any demo event people lined up for an hour to hit a driver 10 times. We had to limit the number of hits each could have. It has been a wildly successful campaign."

TaylorMade has sponsored white-out events around the country, company sales associates wear all-white clothing in stores, and promotions have included Sergio Garcia and PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer hitting balls at a target down a Manhattan street.

TaylorMade introduced white clubs last year with the Ghost Corza putter. All of the company's new woods and putters will be white this year, with the exception of the Est 79 putter, which is available in black.

Johnson's draw formidable

It should be an interesting week for Dustin Johnson at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, however long it lasts.

Johnson is the fourth seed in the Snead bracket and is matched with 13th-seeded Mark Wilson in his opening-round match at 12:25 p.m. (Eastern) Wednesday on the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club course at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.

Wilson has already won twice in the PGA Tour's opening seven tournaments and is the tour's only 2011 multiple winner. If Johnson gets through Wilson, he'll face the winner of the Bubba Watson-Bill Haas match.

Haas, whose caddie is Galivants Ferry native Michael Maness, has been the tour's most consistent player this year with four top-10s and five top-30s in five events. Watson won the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 30, though he withdrew from last week's Northern Trust Open after the first round, citing a pulled stomach muscle.

Johnson could face Tiger Woods in the third round, though Woods would face the winner of the major champions matchup of Padraig Harrington-Geoff Ogilvy in the second round if he gets through Thomas Bjorn.