World’s largest golf tournament in Myrtle Beach trying to become even more inclusive

The 2018 World Amateur Handicap Championship attracted players from 26 countries, including several in Europe. A new transatlantic flight from London to Charleston is expected to bring more golfers from Europe to the area.
The 2018 World Amateur Handicap Championship attracted players from 26 countries, including several in Europe. A new transatlantic flight from London to Charleston is expected to bring more golfers from Europe to the area. Golf Tourism Solutions

The World Amateur Handicap Championship, the world’s largest single-site golf tournament, aims to be even more inclusive for its 35th playing in 2018.

Tournament organizers have increased the number of host courses to 61 from the 52 or 53 that have been used in each of the past few years, and are taking steps to increase the number of international players, women and young adults in the field.

Players can register for the tournament beginning Tuesday at The 72-hole net stroke play tournament will be played Aug. 27-30, with a championship shootout round for flight winners on Aug. 31 at Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club for the fifth consecutive year.

Early entry through May 17 is $525, which is $100 off the regular cost. Players who register by April 12 will be eligible to win one of the 50 random drawing prizes collectively valued at $10,000, including ClubGlove travel bags, PeakVision sunglasses, TaylorMade drivers, putters and wedges, and more.

The tournament is open to players 18 and older, and more than 3,000 players from across the U.S. and more than 20 countries are again expected to participate. The event had 3,010 players last year and 3,070 in 2016.

“The goal is definitely to increase between 3 and 5 percent, and based on the conversations we’ve had with the influencers, I guess you’d say, is they’re positive about it,” said Scott Tomasello, tournament director for the Golf Tourism Solutions marketing and promotion agency, which operates the tournament. “We’ve got a lot of plans. It’s our 35th anniversary so we want to blow it out of the water.”

Courses including Arcadian Shores Golf Club and Crow Creek Golf Club, which were closed for renovations last summer, are being added to the rotation this year.

“We wanted to involve more of the membership here, and obviously the more players we can get the more we can send to each of those golf courses,” Tomasello said.

Tomasello said Golf Tourism Solutions has been working with some organizations that cater to female golfers, including a women’s golf vacation tour operator and the Executive Women’s Golf Association, and some international golf vacation tour operators in efforts to increase female and international participation.

In particular, tournament organizers have enhanced their efforts with tour operators in Germany, Portugal and Sweden, and there are events in Portugal and Sweden serving as qualifiers offering free World Am entry.

“We’re giving the tour operators incentives,” Tomasello said. “Last year we saw international participation was down and we’ve tried to pinpoint the reason. All signs point to [increased numbers] because these things have been in the works for months. The talks with marketers have come to fruition and they’re pointing in the right direction for sure.”

Golf Tourism Solutions also hopes its national sponsorship that began last year of Nextgengolf, which has successfully targeted millennials with a pair of golf leagues for young adults under the age of 40, will help the World Am add some younger players.

Nextgengolf operates the National Collegiate Golf Club Association for college students and the City Tour for young adults, and the Grand Strand has hosted some of its events, including last weekend and this upcoming weekend.

The World Am is being included in the marketing of Grand Strand golf in markets with new direct flights including Minneapolis, Denver and Dallas through consumer golf shows and golf organizations in those areas.

The Golf Tourism Solutions website has been added to the tournament title for marketing purposes.

World Am players are flighted based on age, gender and handicap, and a gross division, senior (50-plus) gross division and “Just For Fun” flight – for players wanting to experience the World Am without the pressure of competition – have been created in recent years to appeal to more golfers.

Entry includes at least four rounds of golf, a gift bag, and nightly admission to the four-day World’s Largest 19th Hole expo that includes food, drinks, entertainment, speakers and celebrity guest appearances.

“I’m excited to hit that button and get people registered for the tournament [Tuesday],” Tomasello said.