The non-profit Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Foundation based at River Oaks Golf Club is taking a giant leap in its offerings with the creation of The Junior Tour Academy of Myrtle Beach.
The comprehensive academy and tour is offering 40 weeks per year of instruction and events, and it has hired touring pro Joe Carbonell as the tour and academy director.
There will be three levels of classes depending on the ability of players. The Nicklaus Class is for the most talented and advanced players, the Woods Class is for intermediate students aspiring to play in high school or another competitive level, and the Hagen Class is predominantly for beginners.
“It’s the Nicklaus Class curriculum that we’re banking on developing the best juniors in the area,” Carbonell said. “It’s time the Myrtle Beach area puts out nationally recognized juniors. This area should have a couple kids qualifying for the U.S. Junior.”
To determine a golfer’s level, there will be a tournament for prospective Nicklaus students and skills contests for Woods and Hagen level students on Aug. 30. Registration began Sunday and there are 15 signed up for the Nicklaus qualifier, 10 for the Woods Class and eight for the Hagen Class.
Assessments every three weeks will determine if students graduate to a higher class.
Carbonell has developed a full curriculum that weighs heavily on the mental game and he wants to eventually expand to other parts of the U.S. Nutrition and fitness are part of the curriculum.
“I don’t think there is enough of this thing across the country,” Carbonell said. “We plan on rolling out our program in other cities. I want to provide something that’s lasting, that people can continue to teach over the years.”
Upon qualification, Nicklaus Class tuition is $1,410 for the 13-week fall/winter semester from Sept. 12-Dec. 20 that will include 78 hours of instruction and nine events. A 23-week spring/summer session from March 10-Sept. 4 is $3,505 for 207 hours of instruction 10 events and four majors. So the annual total of $4,915 is 36 weeks, 285 hours of instruction, 19 events and four majors.
The program is stretched to 40 weeks with four planned road trips to significant golf courses along the East Coast.
The Woods Class’ 13-week fall/winter semester is $820 and the 23-week spring/summer semester is $1,155, and private lessons can be added. The Hagen Class is $660 for 13 weeks and $1,050 for 23 weeks.
Nicklaus fall/winter instruction is from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays with tournaments featuring varied formats on Sunday.
In the concentrated spring/summer, instruction will be from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, and tournaments are Sunday.
Woods sessions are scheduled for 4:30-5:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday and Hagen instruction will be held 4:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Russ Brown and Dan Poling, who are partners in the Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Foundation, will assist in overseeing those classes while Carbonell will focus largely on the Nicklaus Class, though he has created the curriculum for all levels.
Carbonell said none of the instructors are in or have gone through the PGA of America apprentice program. “We’re not concerned because the parents and kids aren’t concerned about it,” Carbonell said. “Are there five parents who say we’re not going there because they’re not PGA? Sure.
“The ones who know us, the ones who have been here . . . results trigger parents and they see I’m getting them. I’m sure over two or three years the word will spread fast.”
Carbonell wants JTA students to participate in other organizations’ events and welcome other juniors in its tournaments for an affordable $30-$40. He’s also willing to volunteer his time to benefit high school teams. “We really want JTA to be more of an influence on everything junior golf, as well as an academy that produces some of the best junior players,” he said.
River Oaks, Indigo Creek and Crow Creek have committed to hosting tournaments, and Carbonell said another 11 courses have verbally agreed to host events. The academy is also seeking use of a classroom once a month at the Golf Academy of America’s campus and use of a gym a couple nights a week, and is trying to lease through a sponsorship an unused portion of Midway Par-3 for a short-game area.
“I’m really looking to bring the best juniors in the state here,” Carbonell said. “. . . We’re offering something that’s not being offered anywhere close.
“I would love in five years to have this be a dorm program, but we have to build the money up first.”
The Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Foundation’s other activities this year include PGA Junior League Golf, junior golf camps and free group clinics.
A fundraiser – The Community Support Tournament & Celebration – for the MBJGF with golf and entertainment will be held Sept. 19 at River Oaks.
Carbonell, 34, is a Queens, N.Y., native who lived in Brooklyn for three years before moving to Myrtle Beach last November. He came to the area with the intention of furthering his pro career. But after volunteering 100 hours with the MBJGF, his focus changed.
“I found more excitement watching these kids hole out from off the green than I did my own career, so I knew that’s what I was meant to do,” said Carbonell, who said he taught five kids for free on Saturdays for six months in 2013 at Forest Park Golf Course in Queens.
He became engrossed in golf relatively late. He founded the 5 One 5 Marketing recording studio and music industry marketing company out of high school. “That was my younger life business, having fun and staying out until 4 a.m. Then I had kids,” Carbonell said.
He played golf very sporadically until he was 24, when he was challenged to a golf match by a friend. Carbonell shot an 82, and said the pro at the course then allowed him to work on his game for free for the next six months. “I played 120 rounds in 6 months,” he said.
He got down to a 5 handicap on his own then started working at Marine Park in Brooklyn with Greg Arciniega, whose company is called Short Game Research and Development.
Carbonell’s career was temporarily derailed in December 2013 when he was hit by a car while walking across a Queens street. He said the lower patella of his left knee had to be replaced with plastic, the ACL and MCL ligaments were torn, and his lower spine had 2 degree curvature.
Two successive knee surgeries were required. Carbonell’s first round of golf after 125 days was played in a brace from his shin to his hip and it took him several more months to get his game back. “The love of the game made me go back and play golf with 90s,” he said.
Both Carbonell and Arciniega moved to Myrtle Beach so Carbonell could turn pro and play on the Swing Thought Tour’s Carolina Winter Series.
An apparent act of fate kept Carbonell in Myrtle Beach. He played in just two events in terrible weather and was planning to return to New York to wait for the Summer Series, and was headed back home if he missed the cut in the second event. He holed out from 181 yards on the 18th hole at Myrtlewood Golf Club’s Palmetto Course to make the cut on the number. “It was one of those moments,” Carbonell said. “We made the cut, we stayed the next day and from there we extended the condo lease for six more months.”
Volunteering for the MBJGF followed. Arciniega is also part of the JTA of Myrtle Beach as the director of research and development and affirmative action, and he’ll seek grants for kids who can’t afford the program.
For more information visit www.mbjgf.org.
Tiger teeing it up
The struggles of two of the world’s high-profile players is the Wyndham Championship’s gain this week.
The year’s final PGA Tour event in the Carolinas, and the final tournament before the start of the FedExCup playoffs, got a boost Monday with Tiger Woods’ confirmation that he will be playing in the tournament.
The 14-time major champion and winner of 79 PGA Tour events committed before the 5 p.m. Friday deadline to keep his options open, and confirmed to tournament officials Monday that he’ll be teeing it up this week for the first time in the Wyndham at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C.
He missed the cut to the final two rounds of the PGA Championship on Saturday morning.
Woods isn’t the only big-name player hoping to find his game this week. Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion who is still ranked 11th in the world despite a disappointing season that included a missed cut in the PGA Championship this past weekend, joined a field Friday that tournament director Mark Brazil called the best in the recent history of the 76-year tournament.
The field includes six former world No. 1s, 16 major champions, eight past Wyndham winners and many of the game’s promising young rising stars.
Those entered include world No. 15 Hideki Matsuyama, No. 20 Brooks Koepka, No. 21 Martin Kaymer, No. 22 Billy Horschel, No. 27 Paul Casey, No. 28 Branden Grace, No. 29 Bill Haas, No. 30 Brandt Snedeker, 2011 champion Webb Simpson and fellow major winners Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Dufner, Stewart Cink and Justin Leonard.
Also in the field are former world No. 1 Luke Donald, past Wyndham winners Ryan Moore, Harris English, Davis Love III, Carl Pettersson, K.J. Choi and defending champion Camilo Villegas, and rising stars Justin Thomas, Ollie Schniederjans, Patrick Rodgers, Daniel Berger, Chesson Hadley and Cameron Smith
Woods’ appearance is sure to give the event more attention, publicity and attendance.
Woods’ PGA Tour season will essentially be over if he doesn’t finish at least alone in second this week.
In 10 events this year he has missed four cuts and withdrew once, his only top-20 finish is a tie for 17th at the Masters, and he has missed the cut in the past three majors.
Woods is 187th in the FedExCup standings and only the top 125 after this week advance to the first playoff event, The Barclays next week in New Jersey. He is 292 points behind Schwartzel at No. 125. A solo second awards 300 points so he’d have a chance with that.
If he fails to make The Barclays field he would likely have to wait seven weeks for the 2015-16 season to start at the Frys.com Open from Oct. 15-18, though he may opt to play overseas.
Scott missed the PGA Championship cut by four shots with a 7-over 151.
Though the Australian has finishes of fourth and 10th in the U.S. Open and British Open, as well as ties for 12th and fourth in a pair of World Golf Championship events, those are by far his best finishes in 13 events this season and he is just 91st in 2014-15 FedExCup points.
Woods is scheduled to play in Wednesday’s pro-am at 7 a.m. with Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul, an alumnus of nearby Wake Forest University, resulting in public parking for the day being moved from a smaller location to the Greensboro Coliseum Complex parking lot, where it will remain through Sunday.
Priests leaving CGA
Andy Priest, a 16-year Carolinas Golf Association staff member, is leaving the organization to become the Executive Director of the Alabama Golf Association.
He will begin his new position on Nov. 1 and replaces Buford McCarty, who held the job for 30 years.
Priest, who played baseball at Campbell University, did a three-month internship in 1997 with the CGA, which has served amateur golf in the Carolinas since 1909 and is based in Pinehurst, N.C.
He worked full-time for 2 ½ years for the International Junior Golf Tour in Hilton Head Island before returning to the CGA in 2000. He is second in command as the Assistant Executive Director overseeing the CGA's extensive tournament operations.
Priest has served on numerous United States Golf Association Rules of Golf Committees for national championships such as the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Senior Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur.
The CGA is also losing Priest’s wife, Tiffany, who has worked for 14 years as the association's Director of Women's Golf and Membership Services.
HJGT in the area
Local players won three of the four divisions this past weekend in the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s Major Championship at True Blue Golf Club.
Pendleton Bogache of Myrtle Beach, who will be joining the women’s golf team this fall at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., shot an 11-over 77-78–155 to win by 14 shots Sunday in the eight-player Girls 15-18 Division. Bailey Richardson of Galivants Ferry tied for second at 169.
Holden Grigg of Myrtle Beach shot rounds of 68 and 70 for an impressive 6-under 138 that included nine birdies to win the eight-player Boys 13-14 Division by 14 strokes.
Harry De Grood of Myrtle Beach was the lone entrant in the Boys 11-12 Division and shot an 88-84–172.
In the 30-player Boys 15-18 Division, rising high school senior Jamie Wilson of Mount Pleasant shot a 2-under 70 in the final round for an even-par 144 to win by three shots over Tyler Gray of Lugoff. Ethan Vallery of Pawleys Island shot a final-round 71 to move into a tie for third at 5-over 149 with Trey Salley of Pawleys Island, who opened with a 71 to take the first-round lead.
Winners in all divisions received automatic qualification to the 2015 HJGT National Championship.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based HJGT returns to the area for the Myrtle Beach Junior Open on Sept. 26-27 at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club. The entry fee is $189 for tour members and $234 for non-members. For more information visit www.hjgt.org or call the tour at 904-379-2697.