After the inaugural Mentor Cup and affiliated events exceeded expectations this past weekend, Kelly Tilghman and the Gene’s Dream Foundation board of directors are working on improving the tournament next year.
For starters, they already have a presenting sponsor in Liberty Mutual Insurance, which has signed on for a minimum of three years.
And in 2019 a morning four-person team captain’s choice tournament is planned that would precede the afternoon Mentor Cup on the final Saturday in October, which organizers hope to establish as the permanent tournament date.
The Mentor Cup and/or captain’s choice tournament will serve as a qualifier for the Liberty Mutual Invitational National Finals, which is the culmination of an annual series of more than 70 charity tournaments around the country that annually draw more than 10,000 participants. The series raises millions of dollars per year for charity – Golf.com reports it raised $8.3 million in 2016.
Tilghman said the Mentor Cup will send a winning team to the four-person scramble tournament in March 2020, when she said it will be held at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
Tilghman said she spoke to Loren Shapiro, the Liberty Mutual event’s founder, about the Mentor Cup and he was compelled to secure the company’s support.
The inaugural event will be tough to beat, considering David Feherty performed his adult standup act at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center following the tournament Saturday at Tidewater Golf Club, where more than 50 two-player teams consisting of junior golfers and their mentors participated.
“There’s still a good buzz around town, I think. We exceeded our expectations. We’re thrilled,” said Tilghman, who worked with Feherty during many of her 22 years at Golf Channel. “We were a small team of dedicated people with a great passion for what we were doing, so we were humble going in, not sure of what returns to expect. But the support from the community, from our partners . . . was more than we could have hoped for, and we’re just so happy. There was a great energy all weekend.”
Tilghman said the amount of money raised had not been tabulated as of Monday. The Gene’s Dream Foundation, named after the late Gene Weldon, who served as a mentor to Tilghman as the head pro at her family’s Gator Hole Golf Club in North Myrtle Beach, has junior golf as its main charitable cause.
The First Tee Coastal Carolinas is among its beneficiaries, and the Mentor Cup is also supporting Hurricane Florence victims through Project Golf this year.
The foundation has a 10-member local board. “This doesn’t happen without these people and they deserve all the credit,” Tilghman said.
Mentor Cup weekend featured a gala with an auction Friday at the Surf Golf and Beach Club, the tournament Saturday and Feherty’s performance Saturday night.
The weekend received support from the Golf Tourism Solutions marketing and technology agency, The First Tee officials and the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Participants and guests included former NFL receiver Sterling Sharpe, LPGA teaching pro Jamie Fischer of Chicago, and Duke women’s golf coach Dan Brooks, who has won six NCAA titles and coached Tilghman in college.
“I don’t know how we’re going to top this, but you know what, we’re going to try,” said Tilghman, who made the rounds on television and radio last week to promote the event. “I’m going to relish in this moment. Of all the things I’ve done in my career as a player and broadcaster, I put this right up there at the top from a pride standpoint.”
Next year’s featured entertainment hasn’t been determined, but Tilghman said organizers will try to attract more regional and national attention for the event.
“We’ll stay true to the goals we started with when we created the Mentor Cup, and that is creating positive bonding experiences for children so they can get more out of the game than just a score,” Tilghman said. “They can get life lessons and core values that will serve them for a lifetime in a positive way.”
Girls make all-state
The South Carolina High School League held its girls golf state championships last week and a few junior golfers from the Grand Strand were named All-State with top-10 finishes in their state championships.
In the Class 5A state championship at Mid Carolina Club outside Columbia. St. James’ Adrian Anderson finished third at 3-over 75-74–149 and Smith Knaffle finished ninth at 8-over 50-74–154, while Carolina Forest’s Mia Gray tied for sixth at 6-over 80-72–152.
St. James, which had won two straight Class 4A state championship with Knaffle as the two-time individual medalist, finished fourth behind champion Lexington in its first season in 5A. Carolina Forest finished 13th.
In the Class 4A state championship at the General Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina, Myrtle Beach finished fourth as a team but did not have an all-state golfer. Brianna Joyner of North Myrtle Beach had the Grand Strand’s low score with a 25-over 84-85–169 that was tied for 13th, and Taylor Pirttima and Essie Rike tied for Myrtle Beach’s low score at 175.