Groundbreaking North Myrtle Beach native selected for S.C. Golf Hall of Fame

Former Golf Channel personality Kelly Tilghman (center) of North Myrtle Beach hits a shot during the 2015 First Tee of the Grand Strand Future Generations Tournament at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club.
Former Golf Channel personality Kelly Tilghman (center) of North Myrtle Beach hits a shot during the 2015 First Tee of the Grand Strand Future Generations Tournament at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. The Sun News

For the past 38 years, Kelly Tilghman’s grandfather and great aunt have been members of the South Carolina Golf Hall of Fame.

In January, Tilghman will be joining them.

The North Myrtle Beach native has been selected for induction into the S.C. Golf Hall. She is half of the 2018 class and is being inducted with Columbia native and former Clemson player and PGA Tour member Charles Warren.

They will bring the hall membership to 70, and will be inducted during a ceremony that will be part of the South Carolina Golf Association’s Golf Day on Jan. 12 at Columbia Country Club.

Tilghman’s maternal grandfather, Melvin Hemphill, was a 47-year teaching pro at Forest Lake Club who worked with Jack Fleck prior to Fleck’s 1955 U.S. Open playoff win over Ben Hogan.

Her great aunt, Katherine Hemphill, is one of the top female players ever from the state who played on the U.S. Curtis Cup Team and was a good friend of LPGA Tour founder and 11-time major champion Louise Suggs.

The Hemphills were both inducted in 1980.

“I’m thrilled,” Tilghman said. “It’s an honor to be included in this prestigious group, and it makes it extra special knowing my grandfather and my great aunt are in the hall as well. It means the world to me to share this honor with them.”

Tilghman helped build Golf Channel’s popularity as a 22-year on-air personality who was the first full-time female play-by-play announcer for PGA Tour tournaments. She resigned from Golf Channel in March.

Her years at Golf Channel followed a notable junior career, collegiate career at Duke and brief pro career that was spent mostly overseas. Her family built Gator Hole Golf Club in North Myrtle Beach and operated it until its closing in 1999.

She fulfilled numerous on-air roles at Golf Channel that made her a household name in golf, including hosting shows such as Golf Central, Morning Drive, Live From, Academy Live and The Grey Goose 19th Hole.

Tilghman became the network’s primary PGA Tour lead announcer in 2007, working alongside color analysts Nick Faldo and Peter Oosterhuis for Golf Channel’s foray into PGA Tour event coverage.

Frank Ford, president and member of the S.C. Golf Hall of Fame, cited Tilghman’s playing career, her family’s involvement in the game, and her groundbreaking work at Golf Channel as reasons for her selection.

“I think Kelly has had a broad career,” Ford said. “She helped build Golf Channel. She was there from the start, and even though that was a professional endeavor I think Golf Channel means a lot to all of us who love the game. And she’s obviously got high character. So I think she’s earned her way in many different ways.”

Longtime Golf Channel co-worker Charlie Rymer, a 2015 S.C. Golf HOF inductee, called Tilghman to inform her of her selection two weeks ago. “It was nice to get that call,” Tilghman said.

She was inducted into the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame in 2016.

Warren, who won the 1997 NCAA individual title, was a member of the PGA Tour in 1999 and from 2005–10 and was also a Tour member for many years.

Others from the Grand Strand in the S.C. Golf HOF are Jimmy D’Angelo, a legendary club professional who became known as Myrtle Beach’s Mr. Golf; Vicki Hillen, who won a combined eight Women’s South Carolina Golf Association stroke play and match play state titles; and Carolyn Cudone, a five-time winner of the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur Championship and founder of the Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Program.

The hall’s board of directors accepts nominations and Ford said a group of more than 20 hall board members, officers and members narrow the candidates to finalists for a vote by the hall membership.

The hall is administered by the S.C. Golf Association.

The next step

Tilghman said she hasn’t settled on her next career move yet.

Since leaving Golf Channel in March, she has been dedicating much of her time to raising her 5-year-old daughter, Ryan, and organizing the inaugural Mentor Cup on Oct. 27 at Tidewater Golf Club and Plantation, which will be followed by a David Feherty stand-up performance at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

It will benefit the Gene’s Dream Foundation, of which Tilghman is a founder and board member. Its mission is to support junior golf and is named after the late Gene Weldon, a four-decade golf pro in the area who was Gator Hole’s 20-year pro from 1980-99 and a mentor to Tilghman.

“We’ll see what the next chapter is. I’m looking forward to finding out what it is myself,” Tilghman said. “I did retire from Golf Channel and NBC, but it doesn’t mean I’m slamming the door shut on my potential to do more work down the road, I just felt this was the right time for me to take this break and dig in with my daughter and be present for her.

“I don’t know how I could do all this while balancing a career at Golf Channel, honestly. I think this is the right time for me to be able to do this. . . . Hopefully we can start something special in my hometown area.”

Tilghman believes the Feherty show may sell out.

The Gene’s Dream Foundation board is still accepting applications for the tournament but it is more than two-thirds full with more than 40 teams consisting of a junior golfer and mentor.

Former South Carolina and NFL wide receiver Sterling Sharpe will be among the participants as a mentor and will speak at a gala on Oct. 26 at the Surf Golf and Beach Club. Other Mentor Cup guests include Duke women’s golf coach Dan Brooks, who has won six national championships, and teaching pro Jamie Fischer of Illinois, who recently tied for 12th in the U.S. Women’s Senior Open.

The gala will include auction items including experiences/trips and memorabilia – such as Masters Tournament flags signed by Jack Nicklaus and reigning champion Patrick Reed.

“We have a lot of different things in the works to show these children how many different ways there are to pursue the game, and to achieve happiness through the game,” Tilghman said.

Tilghman plans to return to the area for a few days in September to meet with area business leaders to share information and raise support for the Gene’s Dream Foundation and Mentor Cup.

“I want these business leaders to understand how important it is that we have more and more children picking up the game in the area,” Tilghman said. “. . . The more kids we have playing locally the more growth the game will experience locally and regionally, so it’s good for business, it’s good for families being able to spend time together, all those things and more.”

TV show visits

The southern end of the Grand Strand, including Pawleys Island courses True Blue Golf Club and Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, and the Inlet Sports Lodge in Murrells Inlet, are featured in the August episode of the nationally-distributed Traveling Golfer.

The show boasts in promotional material that Murrells Inlet is known as the Seafood Capital of South Carolina, the quality of the Mike Strantz-designed courses have been known to golfers for years, and the Inlet Sports Lodge “is the connecting point that makes for a different, upscale and entertaining golf vacation.”

The Inlet Sports Lodge is a unique 34-unit hotel located less than a half mile from the Marsh Walk and its string of restaurants, bars and nightspots.

The Traveling Golfer’s August episode will run throughout the month on the Traveling Golfer network of websites, including The Golf Director Network based in Myrtle Beach, and will also air on Aug. 13 as part of the Press Box television show in Myrtle Beach, which airs from 5-7 p.m. on HTC Channel 4.

It airs as a scheduled weekly show on NBC Sports and NBC Sports + throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. NBC Sports airings are 10:30 a.m. Sundays, 11 p.m. Tuesdays and 11 a.m. Thursdays. NBC Sports + airs the show at 6 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.

All old shows are archived on the show’s YouTube Network and on the home website The show’s website is

The show was named the No. 1 Golf Television Show in America for the third consecutive year at the International Network of Golf Awards, held at the PGA Merchandise Show in January.

Its host, Tony Leodora of Philadelphia, has been coming to the Grand Strand on golf vacations since 1985. He also hosts the weekly radio show GolfTalk Live in the greater Philadelphia market.

Junior achievers

A pair of Grand Strand juniors competed in The Optimist International Junior Golf Championships from July 16-31 at Trump National Doral Miami.

Myrtle Beach High rising junior Keegan Vaugh tied for 22nd in the Boys age 16-18 division with a 9-over 297 with rounds of 71, 73, 79 and 74. Winner Yuki Moriyama shot 280.

In the Boys 14-15 division, Harrison Devers of Murrells Inlet shot 80-82–162 and missed the cut to the third round for the low 74 players.

Vaugh was one of two juniors who came close to winning titles in the 20th annual Blade Junior Classic at the Thornblade Club in Greer, one of the top junior tournaments in South Carolina.

Vaugh posted a 4-under 67 in the final round on July 18 with birdies in three of his final four holes to post a back-nine 32 and claim second place with an even-par 142, four shots behind winner Bronson Myers of Columbia.

Smith Knaffle of Murrells Inlet finished third in the girls division, three shots behind winner and Furman commitment Anna Morgan of Spartanburg with a 1-over 71-74–145. Knaffle, a South Carolina commitment, finished a shot behind runner-up Abigail Shimpf of Daniel Island.