It has been one of the best years in recent memory for Grand Strand club and teaching professionals competing in Carolinas PGA tournaments.
Area pros have won three of the CPGA section’s most significant tournaments in 2019, including Pawleys Plantation assistant pro Derek Watson, who was leading the Carolinas PGA’s Bob Boyd Section Player of the Year point standings entering the final major of the year.
Area pros won two of the five CPGA majors as well as the assistants’ championship this summer.
Watson won the 68th PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.com South Carolina Open in July at the Grande Dunes Resort Course, Ryan Tyndall, head pro at The Reserve Club in Pawleys Island, won the 55th Mobipaid North Carolina Open in June at Trump National in Charlotte, and Billy Belair, an instructor at Topgolf Myrtle Beach, won the National Car Rental CPGA Assistant Championship in August at the Surf Golf and Beach Club.
The winner of the Player of the Year award earns a start in a PGA Tour event, and Watson held a 38-point lead with 350 points over Cory Schneider of The Pointe Golf Club in Powells Point, N.C., entering the Section Championship from Sept. 24-26 at Treyburn Country Club in Durham, N.C.
But Watson’s tie for 21st at Treyburn dropped him into fourth place, and Schneider now leads with 467 points. Watson also trails Steve Scott of The Outpost Club and Matt Vick of Pinehurst No. 7, who won the Section Championship.
Schneider was aided by the 75 points he earned in the 2019 national PGA Professional Championship held at Belfair in Bluffton, for which Watson did not qualify.
As the Section Championship winner, Vick can choose between a PGA Tour start in North Carolina in either the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte or Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, and Schneider will be awarded the other start if he holds onto the Player of the Year honor, as well as a vacation to Nashville sponsored by True Temper.
A qualifier for the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island is built into the first major of the year, the CPGA’s Players Championship. Ray Franz of Daniel Island Club won that event at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton in March to earn the start.
The Player of the Year award will be determined on Nov. 30 and there are still ways for players to earn points, including qualifying for a PGA Tour event. But the five majors are the primary point opportunities, and those concluded Sept. 26. Watson does not expect to earn more points this year.
Tyndall and Watson each earned 150 points for their wins but the Section Championship was worth 250 for the win, and Schneider actually received more points (155) for his tie for third than the winners of three of the first four majors earned for their victories. Last week’s win also paid $9,000.
The top 10 at the Section Championship also qualified for the 2020 national PGA Professional Championship (formerly the PGA Club Pro Championship). Dale Ketola of the Grande Dunes Golf Performance Center is the fourth alternate after tying for 13th at 1-over 75-73-69–217.
Watson pocketed $9,700 in earnings in the five majors this year. He tied for second in the Players Championship, tied for eighth in the N.C. Open – shooting a 5-under 67 in the final round to move up 13 positions and finish at 1-over 217 – and tied for 12th in the 95th BB&T Carolinas Open in August at Greensboro (N.C.) Country Club.
“I played well all year until that last event,” Watson said. “I just didn’t play very well and it was bad timing.”
Watson, 39, played on mini and developmental tours for several years before becoming a Class A PGA professional and playing in CPGA events as the owner of Carolina Golf Sales. He became an assistant at Pawleys Plantation in August 2018.
“My game is not where it used to be by any means, I just don’t play enough now,” Watson said. “This year coming to Pawleys as an assistant gave me a chance to play in assistants tournaments and play a little more.”
Tyndall won the N.C. Open by a shot over seven-time CPGA Player of the Year Kelly Mitchum of Pinehurst Resort with a 7-under 69-71-69–209 to win $4,250, and is 13th in the Boyd POY race.
Belair, a Socastee High graduate, won the assistants championship by three strokes over Troy Spencer of Myers Park CC in Charlotte with a 7-under 68-67–135 to earn $2,350. Watson was third in that event.
Belair and Watson were among the top six who all qualified for the 43rd national PGA Assistant Championship Nov. 14-17 at the PGA Golf Club Wanamaker Course in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
“This year my goal was to qualify for the national championships,” Watson said. “I did for the national assistants’ championship.”
Watson and Tyndall still have one good CPGA event remaining, the Omega CPGA Match Play Championship for the top 16 in the points standings from Oct. 29-30 at Old Chatham Golf Course in Durham, N.C. Watson has been knocked out in the first round the past couple years. “Hopefully I’ll play better this year,” he said.
The South Carolina Open will remain on the Grand Strand for the next two years through a sponsorship agreement with the Golf Tourism Solutions technology and marketing agency.
Royer wins event
Hugh Royer is back to winning golf tournaments.
The Myrtle Beach area resident won the Sunbelt Senior Tour’s seventh Match Play Championship at the Surf Golf and Beach Club last week.
Royer, an instructor and former PGA Tour player, has renewed a playing career following an extensive battle with basal cell carcinoma cancer while also instructing at Tidewater Golf Club.
Royer defeated Chris Hockaday of Angier, N.C., 1 up in the finals of the open division for players 47 to 56 years old to earn $5,000 from the $23,000 purse. Hockaday earned $2,500 as the runner-up for the second straight year.
Robin Byrd of Satellite Beach, Fla., was also a winner, beating Marion Dantzler of Orangeburg in the Legends flight for players 57 and older, which had the same payout as the open division. Byrd also won his age group in 2016.
The Sunbelt Senior Tour, which is owned and operated by Don Barnes of Longs, has one tournament remaining in its 24th season. The Tour Championship is scheduled Nov. 13-15 at Desert Hills Golf Club in Yuma, Ariz., marking the first time the tour has visited the Southwest. For more information visit www.sunbeltseniortour.com.