When legend Greg Norman was named the advisory coach of the China national golf team in March 2013 to help it prepare for the reintroduction of golf into the Olympic Games in 2016, Scott Shobe had no idea his life and profession would be impacted.
But the director of instruction at the Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy at Barefoot Resort now has training the Chinese national women’s team for the next 18 months or so on his to-do list.
The academy has been hired to train the women’s team until the 2016 Olympics, so Shobe is assisting Norman with the instruction of the women.
He and Norman spent a week in China from Oct. 19-26.
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Shobe traveled to Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course in Hainan Island, site of the $2 million Blue Bay LPGA, to work with a few team members who were participating in that tournament, then worked with Norman and a handful of other team members at the 13-course Mission Hills Golf Club.
“They’re 100 percent on board with us training them,” Shobe said. “It was quite the experience. Anytime we get a chance to spend time with anyone like Greg it’s a great opportunity for the academy.”
Shobe said the team, which has been chosen by the China Golf Association, will eventually consist of 10 to 14 players who are a mix of pros and amateurs.
The team’s most prolific player, by far, is Shanshan Feng, the No. 5 player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. She’s likely to continue working solely with her instructor, Gary Gilchrist of Florida.
Xiyu Lin is next in the world ranking at No. 130. The team also has a couple members of the Ladies European Tour and a promising 16-year-old who recently turned pro.
“They’re just like sponges,” Shobe said. “The mechanical side of teaching, they haven’t had much of it. They have more questions about the mental side of the game than mechanical.”
As many as half of the team members and its coaches and representatives are expected to spend three weeks at the Barefoot Resort academy beginning in mid-January. The plan has Shobe returning to Mission Hills for a week or more in March, and the Chinese team returning to Barefoot for another three weeks in May.
Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy managing partner Jose Manuel Fernandez said the Chinese women’s team could return for eight to 10 weeks in the fall, though that is still being discussed.
“I look at it as a great opportunity for the academy,” Shobe said. “Hopefully it will help with our students and help the academy grow and expand in the future.”
In addition to his work with the Chinese, Shobe is overseeing a growing academy.
Fernandez said the academy, which offers a full package of boarding and schooling in addition to golf training, has 20 students in the high school or gap year (recent high school graduates) programs.
That number is expected to grow to 26 in January. The students are from the U.S., Gernmany, Mexico, Canada, Africa, United Kingdom, South Korea and China.
“We’re really happy with it,” said Fernandez, a Mexico native who has lived in Myrtle Beach for six years. “The growth we’re expecting for next year is going to be really, really great, and it’s great to know our students are playing really well.
“I’m really glad where we are. I wish we had more kids by now, but it’s a tough market. Myrtle Beach is a great place and I think it’s a great place to have this academy.”
Norman first put his name on a smaller golf instruction facility at Long Bay Club in the spring of 2010 and opened the facility at the back end of the range at Barefoot in the summer of 2012.
The first student from Beijing recently enrolled. “Hopefully this will help open more doors for them to train at our academy and attend high school,” Shobe said of Chinese students.
Shobe has three instructors assisting him and plans to hire another by the end of the month.
Students are housed at The Farm development in Carolina Forest, though a dormitory is still a goal. Fernandez said there is a small piece of land that is a possibility near the 137-room Wyndham Garden hotel that is being built near the academy – he said construction should start early in December. The total property including the hotel is 4.8 acres, which he said he co-owns with Barefoot Resort owner Sammy Puglia.
There is also another nearby plot off Water Tower Road they co-own, Fernandez said, and a third piece of property owned by a third party that is a possibility for a dorm.
“I’m probably going to run the academy the way it is for another year and make the decision next fall,” Fernandez said.
One piece of property that isn’t in consideration for a dorm is what used to be the 18th tee of Barefoot’s Norman Course. What had been a 552-yard dogleg-left par-5 has been turned into a more straightforward 405-yard par-4 with the shifting of the tee boxes to the right to clear room for possible development. That land is owned by Puglia, Fernandez said.
“I really don’t know what they’re doing,” Fernandez said. “It’s a beautiful property on the [Intracoastal] Waterway. I don’t think it’s to build dormitories.”
Fernandez said the hole change received the approval of Greg Norman, who was sent a blueprint of the alteration and sent Jason McCoy, the senior vice president of Great White Shark Enterprises, to look at the hole in person.
The long-range plan for the academy is to expand with Barefoot being the headquarters. Barefoot remains the only location, though China is among the possible satellite sites. Fernandez said he has been approached by Mission Hills officials about possibly having a Norman Champions Academy there.
Lewallen falls short
Myrtle Beach High graduate Rick Lewallen came within two shots of advancing to the final stage of the Champions Tour Qualifying Tournament.
Lewallen, a PGA of America pro who participated in the PGA Professional National Championship this summer at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club and Grande Dunes Resort Course, finished a shot out of a playoff for alternate positions at a regional qualifier last week in Florida.
He shot rounds of 70, 72, 75 and 71 for an even-par 288 at Orange County National’s Crooked Cat Course in Winter Garden, Fla., to tie for 24th. The top 20 advanced to the final stage, and there was a four-player playoff at 286 for the final three exempt spots. An additional three alternate spots were awarded.
Forty-nine of 176 total players at regional sites in Florida, Texas and California advanced to the final stage, being played Nov. 18-21 at Orange County National’s Panther Lake Course.
At 55, Lewallen, a resident of Kannapolis, N.C., is the 2014 Carolinas PGA Section Player of the Year after being the 2013 Carolinas PGA Senior Player of the Year.
He graduated from Myrtle Beach High in 1975 after two years at the school, played at Coastal Carolina and lived in Myrtle Beach for 12 years.
Lewallen caddied on the Champions Tour from 2001-04 for players such as Hubert Green, Andy Bean, Don Pooley, Mike McCullough and Mark Lye.
Redding earns honor
Golf Magazine Top 100 instructor Brad Redding, who is based at the International Club of Myrtle Beach, has been named a 2014 Golf Range Association of America Top 50 Growth of the Game Teaching Professional.
The top 50 will be listed in the December issue of Golf Range Magazine and on GolfRange.org, and will receive their awards at the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show.
A committee formed by the GRAA chose the top 50 based on an extensive questionnaire regarding a teacher’s programs, activity, volunteerism, awards and experience.
Palmetto Cup pros prevail
For the first time since 2003, some of the top PGA club pros in South Carolina defeated a team of the top amateurs in the state in the Palmetto Cup Matches, claiming a narrow 27.5-26.5 victory Monday at Spring Valley Country Club in Columbia.
Three points were available in each match over two days. Grand Strand pros Ryan Tyndall and Dale Ketola teamed to win all three points of a best ball match Sunday before Tyndall teamed with Andrew Berks to earn two points Monday and Ketola earned 1.5 with partner Rohan Allwood.
Conway native Brent Roof earned four of a possible six points for the amateurs representing the S.C. Golf Association. The amateurs have 17 wins and the pros 15 wins in the series, and there has been one tie.
King to be inducted
Chip King, the director of golf at Grandfather Mountain Golf & Country Club in Linville, N.C., will be the 45th member of the Carolinas PGA Hall of Fame upon his induction Feb. 22 during the Club Car CPGA Awards & Honors Dinner in Greensboro, N.C.
King was an assistant at the Country Club of North Carolina and later became head pro, director of golf and general manager at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club/Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club.
He has previously been honored as the 2001 CPGA and 2002 PGA of America Resort Merchandiser of the Year and the recipient of the 1991 CPGA Professional of the Year award, the 1999 and ‘94 CPGA Bill Strausbaugh Awards (given for mentoring fellow PGA professionals), and the 1996 and ‘89 CPGA Horton Smith Awards (given for commitment to PGA pros education).