Myrtle Beach area pros playing golf marathon for U.S. military patriots

A group of Grand Strand club professionals and a few others in the golf business collectively known as the Myrtle Beach PGA Patriots will participate in a fundraising golf marathon of 100 holes at Rivers Edge Golf Club for Patriot Golf Day.
A group of Grand Strand club professionals and a few others in the golf business collectively known as the Myrtle Beach PGA Patriots will participate in a fundraising golf marathon of 100 holes at Rivers Edge Golf Club for Patriot Golf Day. The Sun News file photo

For the fourth consecutive year, a group of Grand Strand club professionals and a few others in the golf business collectively known as the Myrtle Beach PGA Patriots will participate in a fundraising golf marathon for Patriot Golf Day.

At least 18 participants who are mostly area pros will attempt to play 100 holes of golf on Sunday, Sept. 3 at Rivers Edge Golf Club in Shallotte, N.C., and they are accepting donations for the Folds of Honor Foundation, which awards scholarships to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or injured during military service.

The effort was started by East Coast Golf Management pros and is spearheaded by Crow Creek Golf Club head pro Jimmy Biggs.

The golf marathon has raised nearly $90,000 in the past three years, including $40,000 last year. Donations have already reached $60,000 for this year’s event. The group has a goal of $70,000 for Folds of Honor this year.

“The golf community has run with it,” said participating pro Mike Benson of The Pearl. “For me personally I love that we’re paying back something for the sacrifices these men and women have made for us.”

The contributions and number of participating pros is increasing.

This year it includes: Biggs, Benson, Matt Biddington of Legends, Jay Smith of Prestwick, Brad Crumling of Founders Group, Jeff Diehl of Club Car, radio personality Brian Stefan of The Golf Monger with iNet golf, Wil Weldon, Chad Wiebelhaus of Thistle, Sebastian Beecroft of Rivers Edge, Mike Binder of Ahead headwear, Mike Buccerone of East Coast, Paige Cribb with the Carolinas PGA, Crow Creek and The Pearl teaching pro Jeff Davis, Mike DeLuca of Wachesaw East, Trey Ernstes of Brick Landing, Craig Kenley of Azalea Sands and Eric Morgan of Lockwood Folly.

In addition to straight donations, pros can be sponsored per hole, per birdie, etc., through the website address

The Myrtle Beach PGA Patriots effort is three days of events for the second straight year. A dinner with a guest speaker from the Folds of Honor will be held Friday, Sept. 1 at Crow Creek, and a scramble tournament at The Pearl on Sept. 2 is already sold out.

Benson has been part of the past three golf marathons. The group plans to tee off at 6:30 a.m. and play for approximately 12 hours. “It’s a ton of fun,” Benson said. “After about 36 holes your body kind of goes numb. It goes on autopilot until it wakes back up for the final 18 holes.”

The Folds of Honor was created in 2007 by Maj. Dan Rooney. According to the organization, PGA pros across the country have raised more than $22 million through Patriot Golf Day over the past 10 years, including $6.1 million in 2016.

Folds of Honor donations are also being accepted through the Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Foundation by clicking on the “Warrior Fund” tab at The foundation’s Joe Carbonell will be attending a large event Sept. 25 in Oklahoma City, where he will be giving free lessons to all veterans and their families.

Diaz earns tour card

Former Myrtle Beach resident Roberto Diaz had an anxious and stressful Sunday afternoon, but in the end he fulfilled a nearly lifelong ambition by becoming a member of the PGA Tour for the first time.

Diaz finished 25th on the 2017 Tour regular season money list to earn one of the PGA Tour cards for the 2017-18 season given to the top 25 on the PGA’s feeder circuit.

The 30-year-old is a Mexico native who lived in Myrtle Beach for seven years after graduating from USC Aiken in 2009 and still represents the Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy at Barefoot Resort on tour. He moved to Florida late last year.

“I don’t think there are any words that I can say of how I feel,” Diaz said on camera following his round. “It’s a dream come true, obviously. I can’t put it into words how it feels.”

Diaz entered the final regular-season tournament, the WinCo Foods Portland Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Oregon, 24th on the money list. But by the time he teed off in the final round Sunday, he was projected to finish 27th, so he needed things to fall into place.

They did.

Diaz shot an even-par 70 Sunday to tie for 43rd at 1-under 279, and his standing was ultimately decided about four hours later by competitor Keith Mitchell.

Mitchell, a 25-year-old former Georgia All-American who shot a 62 Saturday to get into Sunday’s final twosome, birdied holes 14 and 15 and needed one more birdie to supplant Diaz at No. 25 in earnings.

He burned the left edge with a 6-foot birdie putt on 16 and left a 20-foot birdie attempt a revolution short on 17. Mitchell would say after the round he was told on the 18th tee he needed to eagle the par-5 18th hole to earn his PGA Tour card, though he needed only a birdie, which would have moved him from a tie for sixth into a tie for second.

Mitchell, who led the tour in eagles this season, blasted a 330-yard drive but pulled his second shot left of the green in short grass. His chip shot raced 20 feet past the hole, possibly because he was trying to hole it for eagle, and he missed the resulting birdie putt and made par to finish 26th on the money list.

Diaz finished the season with $157,823 in earnings, about $6,400 more than Mitchell.

Diaz went back to his hotel room following his round and watched television coverage and checked scores on his phone until the round was over and his PGA Tour card was secured. He then returned to the course to celebrate with the other new PGA Tour members.

“It was a long afternoon. I can tell you I have no nails, no nothing,” said Diaz, who added that he planned to exuberantly celebrate Sunday night. “I pressed refresh probably 90 to 180 times. It was a lot of nerves.”

Diaz had five top-20 finishes this season, including a runner-up finish in the Club Colombia Championship in February and tie for third in the United Leasing & Finance Championship in April.

Others finishing in the top 25 on the money list include South Carolina graduate Kyle Thompson (seventh, $266,312 earned) and USC Aiken alumnus Matt Atkins of North Augusta (19th, $192,029). Diaz graduated in 2009 and Atkins joined the USA Aiken team in 2010.

Diaz now begins the four-event Tour Finals, where another 25 PGA Tour cards will be awarded and positions on the PGA Tour priority ranking list will be finalized. The priority list is used to set PGA Tour fields each week.

The finals begin Thursday with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Columbus, Ohio. The final three events consist of the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco (Sept. 11-17), DAP Championship (Sept. 18-24) and Tour Championship (Sept. 25-1).

The second set of 25 cards will be based on money earned solely in the Finals.

The 2017-18 PGA Tour season begins October 5-8 with the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

Pro-am upcoming

The Sunbelt Senior Tour’s third annual Myrtle Beach Match Play and Pro-Am will be contested Sept. 11-14 at the Surf Golf and Beach Club, and there are still openings for a few pro-am teams.

Thirty teams consisting of a Sunbelt touring pro and three amateurs are scheduled for the pro-am on Monday, Sept. 11, which will also serve as a seeding round for the professionals.

An entry fee of $200 per amateur includes a gift bag, breakfast, lunch, on-course refreshments and contests, trick shot exhibition, silent auction and prizes. To enter a team, call Harriss D’Antignac at 843-340-7961 or Charlie Webster at 843-855-2079.

The Surf Club and Golf & Gaming Tours are the event’s primary sponsors, and the Sea Haven For Youth shelter home is the tournament beneficiary. The non-profit recently dedication a new shelter home in Little River.

Thirty-two pros ages 47 and older from 13 states will be competing for the winning prize of $8,000.

Entrees include Gary Trivisonno of Aurora, Ohio, who has won all of the Ohio major state championships including the Ohio Open, Ohio Senior Open, Ohio State Amateur and Ohio Public Links Championship.

Kevin Johnson of West Palm Beach, Fla., is a six-time winner on the Tour who earned $10,000 for his win in the most recent event on the Grand Strand-based Sunbelt Tour.

John Ross of Freeman, W.Va., has played on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour and over the past year he has won the Colorado Senior Open and West Virginia Senior Open.

Tim Conley of Braselton, Ga., is a two-time Tour winner champion who recently won the 2017 Ohio State Senior Open.

Bob Kurtz of Cullman, Ala., is known as “Golf’s Ironman,” having played 2,100 holes of golf in a week, shooting his age seven times in one day, and playing 500 holes without stopping.

Mike Guy of Myrtle Beach is the host PGA pro who is competing in the event for the first time.

Roof qualifies

Conway native Brent Roof and partner Paul Tucker of Waxhaw, N.C., earned one of two available spots in the 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in a qualifier Monday at Briar’s Creek in John’s Island.

Roof, who played at South Carolina, and Tucker, who played at Duke, shot a 4-under 68 to finish a stroke behind the team of Hayes Brown and Jack Larkin in the 52-team qualifier.

The 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball will be conducted at Jupiter Hills Club in Tequesta, Fla., next May 19-23.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin