Golf

Eyes of the golf world on the Carolinas for the next fortnight

After winning the British Open and the Claret Jug last month, Jordan Spieth has an opportunity to complete the career Grand Slam this week in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.
After winning the British Open and the Claret Jug last month, Jordan Spieth has an opportunity to complete the career Grand Slam this week in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C. AP

The Carolinas will have the attention of the golf world for the next two weeks, as the next two events on the PGA Tour are being held within four-hour drives of the Grand Strand.

It begins this week with the final professional major of the 2017 season, the PGA Championship at a beefed-up Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.

All of golf’s top names, including Coastal Carolina alumnus and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, and Jordan Spieth, who has an opportunity to complete the career Grand Slam, are competing for the Wanamaker Trophy.

That is being followed next week by the 78th Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., which provides the final opportunity for players to move into the top 125 in 2016-17 FedExCup points and qualify for the four-event FedExCup playoffs, which begin the following week.

Players already committed to the Wyndham field include 2018 United States Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, four-time major winner Ernie Els, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, three-time Wyndham winner Davis Love III, 2011 Wyndham winner Webb Simpson, defending champion Si Woo Kim, former FedExCup champions Bill Haas and Billy Horschel, former world No. 1 Luke Donald, and major championship winners Jason Dufner and Graeme McDowell. Players have until 5 p.m. Friday to enter the Wyndham.

This week will likely be one of the last two times the PGA Championship is held in August, as the tournament is expected to move to May beginning in 2019, which would give golf majors in the four consecutive months of April, May, June and July

The PGA of America announced at 5 p.m. Monday that a press conference including PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday, when they are expected to officially announce the tournament’s move to May.

Daily tickets to the PGA Championship, which features 97 of the top 100 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and is expected to attract more than 200,000 spectators over the course of the week, is sold out.

Wyndham Championship tickets are available by calling the tournament office at 336-379-1570 or visiting www.WyndhamChampionship.com.

Wachesaw grows game

The private Wachesaw Plantation in Pawleys Island is making a concerted effort to grow the game, get more juniors involved and give them more opportunities.

The effort involves the professional staff as well as the club’s members, and is multi-faceted.

It includes hosting First Tee of the Grand Strand instruction, offering free memberships to local high school golf team members, being the home of the St. James High girls team, holding junior tournaments, and sponsoring and coaching a pair of PGA Junior League Golf teams.

“We’re really trying to get youth involved in golf and grow the game of golf. We’re trying to do our part with that,” said Vin Petreccia, lead coach for Waccamaw’s programming for The First Tee, vice president of the club and the chairman of the club’s golf committee. “I think it’s just bringing the ideas to the club and the membership gets excited about it. It just seems we have a lot of good people who are interested in young people.”

The club hosts eight-week sessions for The First Tee youth development organization in both the spring and fall from 4-5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays on the driving range and parts of the course. The sessions attracted up to 27 participants this past spring, and instructor Emma Schultz has a large girls following.

“I brought it to the board and they thought it was a great idea,” Petreccia said. “The membership really took hold of it. We’ve had all kinds of donations from the membership to the First Tee.”

The St. James girls team is entering its third season of holding home matches at Wachesaw Plantation. Petreccia said the proposal was approved unanimously by the club’s nine-member board.

This year Wachesaw has given free memberships to every varsity player from St. James High, Waccamaw High and Lowcountry Prep in Pawleys Island. They are allowed to use all practice facilities and play any afternoon, and if they move on to play for a college team the privileges will be extended.

Head pro Joe Gagliano and assistant Josh Bialowans coach two PGA Junior League teams, Gagliano also runs two youth all-sport camps at the club, and the professional staff assists with First Tee instruction.

The club has hosted the Can-Am Junior Team Matches through the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation since 2002, and has recently signed an agreement to continue hosting the matches for the next five years. The matches feature the top boys and girls juniors from Canada’s Ontario Province against the top juniors from South Carolina. Member Bill Gevers spearheads the club’s operation of the event. The club holds a fundraising junior-am prior to the event featuring four members playing with a Canadian junior.

“It’s such a big hit we have to take reservations and turn members away,” Petreccia said. “They’re fantastic kids. They’re great to play with, and they’re really good.”

Price nearly right

In his first South Carolina Golf Association event this past weekend, a new Myrtle Beach resident gave tournament organizers and competitors reason to ask: Who is Parks Price?

Price opened the 86th South Carolina Amateur Championship on Thursday at Florence Country Club with a blistering 8-under 62 that gave him a three-stroke lead, shared the lead entering Sunday’s final round and ended up tying for fourth.

Former Clemson All-American Gregg Jones, the reigning club champion at Florence Country Club, won by two shots with an 8-under 272 over Ryan Marter of Columbia and R.J. Keur of North Charleston. Marter is a former AC Flora High golfer who will play at Wofford College following the U.S. Amateur at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles.

Price finished four shots back following a 5-over 75 in the final round. “It was tough to beat a player like Gregg Jones on his home course. He just took it from us,” Price said.

So who is Parks Price?

Price, 32, is a native of Taylorsville, N.C., who is now an independent insurance broker for Assured Life Solutions based in Hickory, N.C. He briefly moved to Longs from Calabash, N.C., early this year before moving to Myrtle Beach, and he has been a member at the Grande Dunes Members Club since February.

He was a three-sport athlete in high school – golf, swimming and football – and therefore didn’t play a lot of junior or amateur tournament golf before playing at Cape Fear Community College in Brunswick County from 2003-05. He attended UNC Charlotte for a year but didn’t make the golf team, then spent seven years in the golf industry.

He said he attained Class A PGA status and worked as an assistant at Pine Valley Country Club in Wilmington, N.C., then in 2010 he attempted to play mini-tour golf. He said he finished second in his first event, changed irons the next week, then went through his bankroll in six weeks.

In 2012 he left the golf business for ATM machine sales and soon transitioned to insurance sales.

As a club pro, Price played in several North Carolina Opens as well as some S.C. Opens and Carolinas Opens. He regained his amateur status late in 2014, and has played in several Carolinas Golf Association events before moving to S.C., teeing it up in the N.C. Amateur, Carolinas Amateur, N.C. Mid-Amateur and Carolinas Four-Ball. He has recorded a few top-30 finishes but hasn’t been in contention before this week.

“It’s a little different not knowing people down here. Nobody knows who you are,” Price said. “I kind of fly under the radar. Not that you need to be on somebody’s radar, but if you shoot 62 sometimes you are.”

Price also played in last year’s North & South Amateur at Pinehurst Resort after winning a qualifier.

He has enjoyed having his amateur status back. “It has been nice to get back out. This is new to me so it’s fun,” Price said. “I love playing golf and I love tournament golf. It kind of calms me down. You’re mind races sometimes and golf seems to calm me down. I’m doing something that’s fun and that I love.”

Before joining the Members Club, Price was regularly going to public driving ranges for a couple years, including the Harbour View golf complex in Little River a couple times a week because it is lighted.

He’s chatty on and off the golf course. “Hopefully I don’t get under the skin of my playing partners,” he said.

Price said he hopes to play in five to eight tournaments per year. “I work for myself and try to make appointments, but when you have something like the S.C. Amateur I tend to focus on that,” Price said.

Price had an eventful week at Florence Country Club. In addition to his opening 62, he shot a third-round 67 that included a holed 9-iron from 144 yards for eagle on the 15th hole and closed with the 75. He bogeyed three of his first four holes, bounced back with an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole, but fell back again with a double bogey on the par-4 ninth. “It was a crazy weekend,” he said.

Price competes more with accuracy than length, saying one of his playing partners last week was outdriving him by about 60 yards. “If you put me on a 6,400-yard course I’m gonna scare somebody. If you put me on a 7,200-yard course I hope it’s firm.”

Prior to the 62, his best round in competition was a 66 at National Golf Club in Pinehurst in the 2007 Carolinas PGA Assistants’ Championship.

“Right now whatever I’m doing feels pretty special,” Price said. “I feel I’m playing the best golf of my life right now. It’s fun when you can put it all together and see some hard work paying off.”

Some new equipment has helped his game, as master club fitter C.J. Ebel, owner of the Golf Club Maestro in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., has adjusted his clubs. Price said he hasn’t had a formal golf lesson in the past few years and is generally a self-taught player.

He is entered in a qualifier for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship on Aug. 21 at Amelia National Golf & Country Club in Florida, and if he doesn’t qualify he’ll play in the S.C. Mid-Am in October. “If I can qualify for that I’ll feel this year would be a total success,” Price said.

Price said at some point in the future he may try to regain his Class A PGA status, but it will likely come after he gives competitive amateur golf a run for awhile.

Patriots at Tidewater

Major Ed Pulido, senior vice president of the Folds of Honor Foundation, and four military service members from the Grand Strand who were injured in combat will be taking part in the 13th annual Tidewater Charity Patriot Day Tournament.

The tournament is Monday, Sept. 4 at Tidewater Golf and Plantation.

The wounded warriors will participate in an opening tee shot ceremony around 8:15 a.m. following the live singing of the national anthem, and some are expected to play in the tournament, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Several community residents annually take part in the patriotic ceremony.

In addition to benefiting the Folds of Honor, which awards scholarships to descendants of servicemen injured or killed in combat, it also benefits the North Strand Helping Hand, Little River Medical Center’s “Miles for Smiles” children’s dental care program, North Strand Housing Shelter and SOS Autism Healthcare.

Tournament director John Mouco said the tournament donated $68,000 to the charities last year and has given nearly $500,000 in its 12 years.

The golf tournament culminates four days of events from Sept. 1-4. They begin with a ball drop operated as a 50/50 carried out by the North Myrtle Beach Fire Dept. on the Tidewater driving range around 6:45 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1.

There will be five holes on the range, and the first five balls in the holes win prizes. Balls are $20 each, three for $50 and seven for $100. First place will be a minimum of $500 and could increase considerably depending on participation, and participants don’t have to be present to win.

Grand Strand Bowling for Vets will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 2 at the Little River Lanes. That event will include a 50/50 drawing and giveaways.

A player reception at Tidewater is from 6-9 p.m. on Sept. 3.

A tournament entry fee of $180 per player includes a gift bag, on-course beverages, breakfast and lunch. The tournament will include a putting contest, two-year Mercedes or BMW lease for a hole in one, and hole-in-one shootout for $50,000 for four players chosen in a drawing during the awards luncheon.

A Masters package for $230 includes some 50/50 tickets, ball drop and putting contest entries, and entry into a drawing at the luncheon for at least $500 in gift cards.

Any of the events can be entered by visiting www.tidewatercharitytournament.com or calling tournament director John Mouco 843-249-2018.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin

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