In just its second year, the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship is starting to take the form that its organizers have envisioned.
The tournament, which is being played Feb. 24-26 at TPC Myrtle Beach, was created with the stated goal of becoming one of the top junior tournaments in the U.S. and the world.
The best example of its increasing popularity is a waiting list consisting of 80 boys and more than 20 girls, and an 18-hole qualifier Saturday that has attracted more than 60 players from several states and Canada.
Organizers and supporters of the event include TPC owner Founders Group International, Johnson, and the Dustin Johnson Golf School and its director of coaching Allen Terrell, and marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, which is conducting the event.
“We want it to be an elite junior golf tournament,” Golf Holiday tournaments director Jeff Monday said. “It seems that we’re on the right path to what everyone wanted this event to become.
“It speaks to the experience of the first-year players, word of mouth and maybe some of the pictures and videos that are out there. It’s a good sign for the direction the tournament is going in.”
Players can sign up for the qualifier through Tuesday. It is being held at Myrtle Beach National’s SouthCreek Course and has a $40 entry fee. Two boys and one girl are expected to be accepted into the DJ World Junior field from the qualifier.
Players can register by calling 843-282-2647 or visiting www.djworldjunior.com, and registrants will be informed of their morning tee time by Wednesday.
Last year’s qualifier was limited to residents of Horry, Georgetown and Brunswick counties, but the regional restriction was removed this year and there are 53 boys and eight girls registered who are traveling from throughout the Carolinas, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Georgia and Ontario, Canada. Many of those on the waiting list are entered, as are about a dozen players ages 13-18 from the Grand Strand.
“It has turned into a pretty big event for a qualifier,” Monday said. “We didn’t know what to expect, but I wouldn’t have expected triple the number of players from last year. I don’t think anybody thought we would get the drive market that we have for kids to play in an 18-hole qualifier. The number is surprising and the distance people are traveling is surprising. They want to get into this event. So it’s encouraging for a second-year event to have this interest in the qualifier.”
The tournament field has been expanded from 60 boys and 30 girls to 72 boys and 32 girls. “We’re pretty maxed out now. There’s really not much more expanding that can happen,” Monday said. “We’ll see how this year goes and revisit.”
The current DJ World Junior field includes players from 18 states, four Canadian provinces, and five countries including Sweden, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
There are eight boys ranked in the top 200 in the U.S., according to the National Junior Golf Scoreboard Rankings, which determines the order of the waiting list and is heavily considered by the tournament selection committee.
The field includes eight of the top 10 boys from South Carolina, including No. 1 Trent Phillips, who won the Palmetto Amateur and several junior tournaments in 2016, and No. 2 Jacob Bridgeman, both of Inman. They are ranked Nos. 32 and 77 in the country. Patrick Golden of Murrells Inlet is ranked fifth in the state.
Eleven of the top 12 girls in South Carolina are entered, including No. 1 Gracyn Burgess of Lexington and No. 6 Smith Knaffle of Murrells Inlet. Madison Elliott of Little River, Matthew Griego of North Myrtle Beach, and Jackson Cole and Trey Salley of Pawleys Island are also representing the Strand in the field.
Participant Akshay Bhatia of Wake Forest, N.C., who won the IZOD AJGA Championship in Kannapolis, N.C., is ranked 106th nationally. Teddy Tetak is a member of both the Slovakian Junior Golf and Men’s Golf teams, and Tristan Gretzky, Johnson’s future brother-in-law with whom he regularly plays golf, is making the trip from Westlake Village, Calif., to participate.
Twenty of the field’s older players have signed national letters of intent to play golf collegiately in the fall. Among them are JonErik Alford of Roswell, Ga., (Ohio State), Reed Bentley of Wellford and Golden (College of Charleston), Jimmie Massie of Lynchburg, Va. (Virginia), Kyle Spencer of Mount Pleaseant (Air Force), Kathryn Carson of Mooresville, N.C. (East Carolina), Emily Cox of Lancaster (Southern Mississippi) and Anna Eddy of Hilton Head (Wofford).
“The field is stronger this year compared to last year, and it will be a goal to increase the strength of the field every year,” Monday said. “We have quite a few impressive kids coming in.”
The tournament will be void of a defending champion. Reigning boys champion Blake Taylor of Atkinson, N.C., is playing at East Carolina while 2016 girls winner Delaney Shah of North Potomac, Md., is playing at Louisville.
Organizers want players to have a first class experience, and the participant gift pack includes adidas shoes; a Projekt backpack; a dozen TaylorMade balls; a pin flag; logoed outerware, shirt and hat; and a putter cover and other products.
Thistle earns acclaim
Thistle Golf Club in Sunset Beach, N.C., has been named one of the top courses in the U.S. by GolfAdvisor.com, a Golf Channel-affiliated site that provides golf course ratings and reviews by golfers, for golfers.
Thistle is ranked No. 14 in the country based on more than 100,000 reviews posted by golfers in 2016.
More than 2,000 U.S. golf courses were considered, having received the minimum 15 reviews to qualify for the Top 50, and there are eight new courses in the top 10 and 36 new courses overall on the 2016 list.
“The greatest endorsement you can receive comes from the players who play your course, which is what makes this ranking so gratifying for our entire team,” Thistle general manager Jamie Roderick said.
Thistle is a 27-hole facility designed by Tim Cate that has received a 4.5-star rating in Golf Digest’s Best Places to Play guide. It includes a 15,600-square-foot clubhouse that is home to old golf memorabilia. On many spring weekends, Thistle employs a bagpiper to greet players.
No. 1 on GolfAdvisor’s Top 50 is Ram’s Hill Golf Club in Borrego Springs, Calif., and No. 3 is Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island.
March event looming
Approximately 140 players from 17 states have registered for the third annual Myrtle Beach March Championship on six Strand courses from March 4-7. The tournament has a maximum field of 200 players and the entry deadline is Tuesday, Feb. 14.
The format is 54 holes of individual net stroke play. An entry fee of $299 includes three rounds of golf, a welcome party, awards ceremony, awards and random prize drawings.
Host courses are the Barefoot Resort Dye Club, True Blue Golf Club, Founders Club of Pawleys Island, Glen Dornoch Golf Links, Tiger’s Eye Golf Links and Sandpiper Bay Golf Club.
States represented in the field include California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa and Maine. More information is available at www.marchchampionship.com.
Junior Shootout open
Registration is open for players ages 10-18 for the 14th annual Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Shootout from April 14-15 on Myrtle Beach National’s West and SouthCreek courses.
The 36-hole stroke play tournament is sanctioned by the South Carolina Junior Golf Association and top finishers will earn Junior Golf Scoreboard points.
Online registration for the fifth annual, 2017-18 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship began Jan. 25 at www.drivechipandputt.com.
There are 268 local qualifier sites across all 50 states, and there are four scheduled for South Carolina, including July 11 at Legends Golf Resort. The entry deadline for that site is July 6.
Players ages 7-15 – their age on April 1, 2018 – are eligible, and the top three finishers in each age/gender division will advance to a Subregional on Aug. 26 at Fort Jackson Golf Club in Columbia. The top two in each division there advance to a Regional on Sept. 3 at Pinehurst Resort.
The division winners at each of the 10 regional sites advance to the finals at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on April 1, which is the Sunday prior to the Masters Tournament. Golf Channel will broadcast the finals live.
The DCP competition is a joint undertaking by the United States Golf Association, Masters Tournament and PGA of America to grow the game of golf.
Pawleys adding homes
Nine acres of property running along the right side of the 18th hole at Pawleys Plantation has recently been purchased and will soon become housing.
Bill Clark Homes is expected to build 27 custom-made homes to the right of the fairway. The left side of the difficult par-4 closing hole runs alongside marsh.