Golf Channel personality and North Myrtle Beach native Kelly Tilghman spent 10 days on the Grand Strand leading up to Gene Weldon’s death in January at the end of his battle with cancer.
Tilghman made some promises to Weldon during their bedside conversations, and she’s following through on a couple of those by spearheading a new tournament that honors Weldon’s role as a mentor to Tilghman, and securing a related performance by golf funnyman David Feherty.
The inaugural Mentor Cup is scheduled to be played Oct. 27, 2018 at Tidewater Golf Club and Plantation, and will be followed that evening by a two-hour Feherty stand-up performance.
Both events will support The First Tee youth development chapters in Brunswick County and the Grand Strand, of which Weldon was a devoted supporter.
“We’re going to try to blow out the first one,” Tilghman said. “Gene for the past couple years was trying to get me to talk David into coming here.
“… In those final days I called David and put David on the phone with Gene. They were laughing and telling stories. When he hung up I told him we’re going to get David here. Gene was thrilled. So this one’s for Gene.”
Feherty is an analyst and on-course reporter for NBC and Golf Channel who has an Emmy-nominated self-titled talk show on Golf Channel. His stand-up routine is billed as “David Feherty Off Tour, Wandering Around on His Own.”
Tickets will be available to the general public in addition to tournament participants and sponsors. Tilghman and other tournament organizers are trying to determine the venue, which they want to seat at least 1,000.
“You don’t have to have a connection to our mission to want to see David perform,” Tilghman said. “He’s one of the most talented people you’ll come across not just in the golf industry but entertainment. It’s going to be great. He’s like a brother to me in every way. He was one of my mentors in broadcasting so it’s a perfect fit.”
Feherty has appeared in Myrtle Beach previously. He was a speaker at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center during the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship in 2010 and 2011.
Weldon spent more than four decades as a professional in the Myrtle Beach golf market and was the head pro at Gator Hole Golf Club, which was owned by Tilghman’s father, Phil, for the course’s entire 20-year existence from 1980-99. Tilghman considered Weldon to be her mentor in the game and industry.
“It’s in the spirit of what Gene meant to me,” Tilghman said. “He didn’t teach me how to the play the game, he taught me how to love it.”
The Mentor Cup will feature 60 two-person teams consisting of a mentor and junior golfer age 17 and younger, and mentors can be relatives or non-relatives. “It’s about bonding with your mentor, having a great time and picking up a few life lessons along the way,” Tilghman said.
The tournament format will be a combination of scramble and alternate shot with some “fun moments” built into the round, including a putt for prizes with a long putter in honor of Weldon, who was a notoriously bad putter. “One round is teaching them how to have fun, the second half of the format we believe instills a little responsibility. It involves a little pressure,” Tilghman said. “So there was a method to the format.”
The First Tees will benefit through the newly-created nonprofit Gene’s Dream Foundation, which has a mission to continue developing junior golf in the area, including through The First Tee chapters.
While the concept of the tournament has been formulated, many details still have to be determined and organizers have a lot of time.
“We decided to do this right. We’re not going to rush it,” Tilghman said. “We’ve made a ton of progress and we’re still a year out from our first go-around. We have a mission, a board of directors, a fantastic venue, the main talent, and we have a really neat format.”
There is a scheduled board meeting Wednesday to discuss more details. The Gene’s Dream Foundation 10-member board includes Weldon’s son Wil, who is chairman; Weldon’s widow Jeri; Tilghman; fellow Golf Channel personality Charlie Rymer of Fort Mill; former PGA of America president Gary Schaal; Carolinas PGA vice president Paige Cribb of Coastal Carolina; East Coast Golf Management president Mike Buccerone; Tidewater head pro Chris Cooper; realtor T.J. O’Brien and Joe White, a former friend to Weldon who owns an executive search company for sporting goods manufacturers.
How the 120-player field will be filled is still being discussed, though Tilghman wants to keep the entry fee minimal and possibly request an essay with the applications.
“We want to have good stories told,” Tilghman said. “I’m pretty sure there will be Golf Channel involvement on this. These are stories we want to be told on Golf Channel, to put these kids and their mentors on Golf Channel.”
The web domains GenesDream.com and MentorCup.com have been secured, as well as affiliated Facebook and Twitter sites.
“It’s a challenge and it’s fun and it’s emotional, it’s all of those things,” Tilghman said. “There’s a larger vision here too. We’ll start locally and regionally and see where it takes us.”
Tilghman will be on the Strand on July 24-25 for the First Tee of the Grand Strand’s fundraising Future Generations Tournament at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club that honors Weldon this year, and acoustic Jam for Juniors Charity Concert that precedes it featuring Josh Kelley, Javier Colon and members of Sister Hazel.
Tilghman said she will continue to support and participate in the Future Generations Tournament in addition to her new endeavor. “What we’re doing is not to replace that, but what we have is an extension or spawn off of that,” Tilghman said.
The Future Generations Tournament has an internet auction as part of its fundraising, which went live on July 5 and will close at 5 p.m. on July 24. The auction is available at www.tommystines.com/auctions.
Among the many items available are a First Tee pin flag signed by celebrities and golf pros from the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am, Crazy Sister Marina boat cruise, TaylorMade M-2 irons, seven-night Wyndham vacation, Caledonia/True Blue vacations, NASCAR Driving Experience at Myrtle Beach Speedway, foursomes at several area private courses, a foursome with carts at Wachesaw East with a $100 gift certificate to Dave's Dockside Restaurant, and foursome with carts at Prestwick Country Club with a $50 gift certificate to Dead Dog Saloon.
Pebble Beach bound
First Tee of Brunswick County participants Spencer Faircloth and Jayla Rogers have been selected to compete in the Champion’s Tour’s PURE Insurance Championship the week of Sept. 19-24 at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course in California.
The 54-hole tournament pairs a total of 81 First Tee participants who have been selected by a national panel with Champions Tour players and amateurs and will be televised on Golf Channel.
First Tee participants were selected based on playing ability and comprehension of the life skills and core values learned through their involvement with The First Tee.
Both Faircloth and Rogers are five-year First Tee members. Faircloth is a rising senior, National Honor Society member and the top player on the West Brunswick High golf team and plans to major in engineering after high school.
Rogers is a rising junior at Laney High and plans to play collegiate golf and major in psychology.
The First Tee of Brunswick County is one of the more successful chapters in the country, and has previously been represented by eight members in the Pebble Beach event.
Obremski makes cut
Coastal Carolina alumnus and part-time Surfside Beach resident Dan Obremski, who played on the Grand Strand-based Coastal Players Tour in 2016, and 2016 Coastal Players Tour Championship winner Ryan Zylstra of Richmond, Va., both qualified this past week for the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic through weekly qualifying.
Obremski made the Greenbrier cut with a 1-under 139 through two rounds and shot a pair of 1-over 71s on the weekend to tie for 64th at 1-over 281. He played on Sunday with five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who shot a 64.
Zylstra, who is now a club pro at the Federal Club in Glen Allen, Va., missed the cut with a 13-over 153 at The Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Obremski got through both a Thursday and Monday qualifiers. In the Monday qualifier at the Resort at Glade Springs’ Cobb Course, Zylstra tied for second with a 2-under 69 and Obremski nabbed the fourth and final spot in a six-person playoff after shooting a 70.
Obremski, who has been playing mini-tours this year, has qualified for the Greenbrier in two of the past five years. The 30-year-old Pittsburgh area native broke the Cobb Course record with a 9-under 62 in the Monday qualifier in 2013.
He shot 74 Monday and failed to get into the John Deere Classic through a qualifier.
“It’s rewarding to see our pros reaching new levels, as that’s the purpose of the tour, to serve as a grooming ground to help all of its competitors prepare for and elevate their tournament play for Web.com and PGA Tour events,” said Coastal Players Tour founder Buddy Wilkins.
World Am seeks vols
The 34th annual Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship is seeking volunteers from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.
Volunteers will receive a Greg Norman polo and a World Am hat, and have access with a guest to the 19th Hole party and expo on nights they aren't volunteering to enjoy vendors, entertainment, local food and drinks.
Positions include operating golf contests, scorecard couriers and greeters. Email Scott@GolfHoliday.com or call 843-282-2647 for an application.
The entry fee for the World Am is $625 through Aug. 4 and players can register at worldamgolf.com or by calling 800-833-8798. Nearly 2,800 players are currently registered.