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Battle at the Beach RBC Cup

Organizers aren't holding back for this year's Can-Am celebration, as well they shouldn't, considering this is the 50th anniversary of the event.

Although relatively new to the celebration, the Battle at the Beach RBC Cup is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever. The previous event was simply a friendly golf tournament between Canadians and Americans, but this year a whole festival has been added to the March 16 event at Prestwick Country Club.

"This is kind of a different year for us," said Steve Carter, senior market manager with the Royal Bank of Canada. "We're making it the RBC Battle at the Beach festival. We've teamed up with the PGA of America, who will have seven to 10 teaching professionals at the event who will give out free golf lessons and tips for people who are attending the tournament. We'll also have representatives from different golf groups, like Nike and Titleist."

The Canadian consul general in Atlanta will also be at the festival, as will a royal Canadian Mountie, who will be available for photo opportunities. A booth will be set up to distribute information and giveaways on Canada.

Nongolfers needn't stay away, as there is plenty planned for everyone, including food and drinks, arts and crafts, and entertainment.

Also new this year is a grand prize awarded by Direct Air, the presenting sponsor: a three-day, two-night all-expense paid vacation for the winning team. If the U.S. team wins, their trip will be to Niagara Falls, and if the Canadian team wins, Direct Air will pay for them to return for a vacation in Myrtle Beach.

Last year, 144 players competed for the RBC Cup at Pine Lakes, and the U.S. team, led by Coastal Carolina University head football coach David Bennett, won the cup.

Bennett will be the U.S. team captain again this year, and returning as the captain for the Canadians is 10-time Stanley Cup winner Yvan "The Roadrunner" Cournoyer.

Another big-name participant in the tournament is two-time NBA all-star Gus "The Wizard" Williams, who led the Seattle Supersonics to an NBA Championship in 1979, according to Carter. A member of Canadian press will also be playing, as well as Robert Mackenzie, senior trade commissioner with the Canadian Consulate from Raleigh, N.C.

The golf tournament filled up with 148 players more than a week ahead of time, and there are even people on a waiting list in hopes of getting in if a registered player drops out at the last minute.

The tournament in 2010 raised $15,000 for Myrtle Beach Haven, a nonprofit that helps area homeless. That group will continue to be the fundraiser recipient this year, with a goal of around $20,000, according to Carter.

"We want to encourage the public to come out and attend the festival," Carter said. "All the events are free, except for the tournament itself, and we're asking people to bring nonperishable items to donate to Myrtle Beach Haven.

"Anything to give back is what we're looking for."

Myrtle Beach Haven has been the beneficiary of the tournament since its inception.

The Canadians really want to win the cup this year, Carter said, and added that Bennett is feeling the pressure to defend the U.S. title. "He's been a great leader, and he really believes in what we're doing it for, which is Myrtle Beach Haven."

Other golf events

If you're just not into 18 holes of golf but still want to get in on the fun, there is a miniature golf tournament planned for March 19 at Hawaiian Rumble at 3210 U.S. 17 in North Myrtle Beach. For just $5 a person, you and your children can spend the whole day at one of the Strand's best mini-golf courses.

Also on March 19, Canadians and Americans go at it again, though this time it's much younger participants. The 13th annual Can-Am Junior Golf Matches invite the top 16 junior golfers from Ontario and from South Carolina for a competition at Wachesaw Plantation Club in Murrells Inlet. It's free to watch and extends to March 20.