On Grand Strand Golf: Johnson’s runner-up keeps thousands from earning free drivers

Dustin Johnson three-putts on the 18th hole during the final round of the U.S. Open.
Dustin Johnson three-putts on the 18th hole during the final round of the U.S. Open. The Associated Press

Had Dustin Johnson rolled in a 12-foot eagle putt Sunday on the 18th hole at Chambers Bay Golf Course, thousands of golfers would have received free drivers from TaylorMade Golf and PGA Tour Superstore.

Had he rolled in a comeback 4-footer for birdie, those thousands would have had a keen interest in the result of an 18-hole playoff Monday featuring Johnson and 21-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth with their free drivers on the line.

But with Johnson’s three-putt that left him a stroke shy of Spieth’s 5-under 275 winning total in the 115th U.S. Open, they got the equivalent of a prize for a missed cut: nothing.

TaylorMade and PGA Tour Superstore, which has a pair of locations on the Grand Strand, ran a promotional contest tied to Johnson’s performance.

If the Coastal Carolina alumnus won the U.S. Open, anyone who purchased either an R15 or AeroBurner driver between May 18 and June 17 – the eve of the first round – through PGA Tour Superstore would have been reimbursed the cost of the driver.

Others who entered the contest by filling out a form at a PGA Tour Superstore location were also in line for a free driver.

The retail chain and equipment company joined forces to take out an insurance policy to cover the cost of a Johnson win.

Jory Mendes, TaylorMade Golf’s assistant manager of public relations, estimates more than 2,000 people were up for the free drivers, though he said the final number couldn’t be computed Monday.

“TaylorMade and PGA Tour Superstore really wanted him to win,” said PGA Tour Superstore chief marketing officer Matt Corey. “We bought an insurance policy in the hopes he would win, so we were cheering for him.”

The promotion was touted as a reimbursement for a purchased driver, though Corey said the promotion required a no-purchase-necessary component by law in the U.S. So some people entered by mailing an entry form available at store locations.

Though he wouldn’t disclose the percentage of purchases vs. entries, Mendes said significantly more than 1,000 drivers were bought during the month-long contest.

PGA Tour Superstore has 23 locations nationwide in 11 states stretching from the East Coast to California in addition to its online store. The chain was founded on the Grand Strand when the superstore’s parent company in Atlanta purchased the Martin’s Golf & Tennis stores in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

Purchasers would have received a check in the mail, while entrants would have received a driver in the mail. Corey said the companies planned to include congratulatory notes and possibly a personal note from Johnson included in the shipping.

The contracted insurance company had a sizable chunk of change at stake.

The AeroBurner has a retail price on the website of between $299.99 and $399.99 and the R15 has a retail price of between $429.99 and $499.99. In both cases, the TP (Tour Preferred) versions of the drivers that include premium shaft options are the more expensive models.

If the average price per driver was $380, for instance, the value of the awarded drivers would have been in excess of $760,000.

Mendes said TaylorMade, which has had an endorsement agreement with Johnson since he turned pro, was pleased with the residual effects of the contest, including chatter on social media, calls and inquiries the company received, and an increase in sales both overall and on the company website presumably attributable to the promotion.

“We were all extremely pleased with how the campaign came out,” Mendes said. “We were excited about it. It certainly would have been something else, more so because we really wanted DJ to win.”

Mendes said TaylorMade may consider a similar promotion in the future.

“I’m sure the idea has been discussed within the retail team but I’m not sure if we’re going to do it again,” he said. “It probably depends on the [return on investment].”

Corey said he ran a similar promotion in 2010 when he was at Golfsmith involving Callaway drivers and Phil Mickelson at the Masters, and Mickelson won.

“There are more majors and [Johnson] is young. Other than telling you we have exact plans, we’ll look at other opportunities like this,” Corey said. “We may roll the dice again. It was pretty fun.”

Weldon honored

The Executive Tournament Committee of Family Golf Week presented by PGA Tour Superstore has chosen Gene Weldon, an icon in the Myrtle Beach golf community for more than 40 years, as the recipient of the “Father of the Year” award for the 18th annual tournament being held July 15-18.

The Hartsville native attended Erskine College in Due West and served his country in the U.S. Navy for four years with three of those being spent on aircraft carriers. He moved to Myrtle Beach with intentions of attending Coastal Carolina but instead took a job at Beachwood Golf Club and enrolled in the PGA Apprentice Program.

He worked as an assistant at Arcadian Shores Golf Club for seven years, became head pro at Waterway Hills Golf Club, served as head pro at Gator Hole Golf Club for 20 years, then served as membership director at the Surf Golf and Beach Club.

He worked as director of golf at both Sandpiper Bay and The Thistle and is currently the director of sales for East Coast Golf Management.

“I have played many important roles in my life … service personnel, golf professional, etc … but none are more important and give me more pleasure than being a dad,” Weldon said in a release.

Weldon also has served as president of the Grand Strand Golf Directors Association, president of the Horry County Heart Association and South Carolina State Golf Chairman, and was named the 2011 Volunteer of the Year for The First Tee of Brunswick County. He is also involved in many other local and civic organizations.

Weldon and wife Geri have three children: Wil, John and Hayes.

The 17th annual National Father & Son Team Classic presented by PGA Tour Superstore will be held July 16-18 on nine courses and the inaugural Father & Daughter Team Classic and Mother & Daughter Team Classic will be held July 16-17 on four courses. Legends Resort will be the tournament headquarters.

Knaffle wins HJGT event

Smith Knaffle took advantage of her extensive course knowledge to win the overall girl’s title of the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s Myrtle Beach Junior Challenge at the International Club of Myrtle Beach by an impressive 15 strokes Sunday.

The rising freshman at St. James High and reigning Sun News Toast of the Coast girls golfer of the year is the daughter of longtime International Club superintendent Jim Knaffle and posted rounds of 72 and 76 for a 4-over 148 total.

She made a combined four birdies and 24 pars over the two rounds and finished 18 strokes ahead of girls ages 15-18 division runner-up Macy Somoskey of Sanford, Fla., and 15 strokes ahead of girls 11-14 division winner Jordan Guyton of South Carolina.

The boys 15-18 division was won by Dixon Flowers of Sumter with a 3-over 147, which was one stroke better than Dalton Mauldin of Sanford, N.C., and Will Canipe of Murrells Inlet tied for sixth with a 13-over 157. Dillon Hite of Lexington won the boys 13-14 division by six strokes with a 7-over 151.

Knaffle and the other division winners receive an invitation to the 2015 HJGT National Championship from Dec. 5-6 in Florida. The Myrtle Beach tournament was ranked and awarded points for the American Junior Golf Association for boys and girls 15-18, Junior Golf Scoreboard, S.C. Junior Golf Association and Tarheel Youth Golf Association.

CPGA Jr. on weekend

The Hackler Course at Coastal Carolina is the host site for the Carolinas PGA Junior Championship this Saturday and Sunday, with a berth in the PGA of America’s junior championship at stake.

Knaffle of Murrells Inlet and Hannah Fesperman of Georgetown will be competing against some of the top girls golfers in the Carolinas. The boys competition will include Patrick Golden of Murrells Inlet, Daniel Graves of Longs, Vijay Mishra of North Myrtle Beach, and Karsten Kenley and Holden Grigg of Myrtle Beach.

The Junior PGA Championship will be held Aug. 3-6 at Miramont Country Club in Bryan, Texas.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284 or on Twitter @alanblondin, or read his blog Green Reading at