On Grand Strand Golf: Fall Classic tournament increases participation by more than 50 percent

Scores are posted at the 2015 World Amateur Handicap Championship, one of several tournaments run by Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday.
Scores are posted at the 2015 World Amateur Handicap Championship, one of several tournaments run by Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday.

The Fall Classic, which is one of four new tournaments created by marketing cooperative Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday that debuted between November 2014 and this past summer, teed off Monday with more than a 50 percent increase in participation.

The event has 306 players from 30 states, Canada, Bermuda and Italy after reaching a sellout of 200 players last November. “A 50 percent increase is phenomenal growth for the second year of an event,” Golf Holiday tournaments director Jeff Monday said.

Golf Holiday increased the number of courses from eight to 16 to give the 72-hole two-player team event a capacity of 360 players this year.

The course lineup is impressive and may be at least partially responsible for the tournament’s growth.

Eight have been ranked among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses and every course has earned at least four stars from Golf Digest. Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, the Grande Dunes Resort Course, TPC Myrtle Beach and three courses at Barefoot Resort are among the layouts being used.

There is a different format each day. Monday’s opening round of the net stroke play event was best ball and will be followed by a Texas Scramble, combined net team score and a scramble format. Holes-in-one were made at Caledonia and Thistle Golf Club in the first round.

For $375, players receive a welcome gift, hors d’oeuvres and open bar during a registration party, and an awards dinner Thursday night at the Grande Dunes Marina Inn featuring a plated dinner and open bar.

Monday said about 100 players returned from the inaugural tournament and there are a couple hundred new players. Last year’s event was impacted by cold weather and multiple frost delays.

“With the weather challenges we had coming out of last year, that was something we were going to have to overcome, which we did,” Monday said.

Golf Holiday’s next tournament will be the 54-hole Preseason Classic from Jan. 31-Feb. 3. That two-person team event will still have a limit of 200 players and costs $199.

Golf Holiday is considering adding a new tournament this year, possibly in the fall after the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship. More information about Golf Holiday tournaments is at

Q-School struggles

Neither Patrick Lundy of Little River nor recent Coastal Carolina graduate Andrew Dorn of West Chester, Ohio, were able to advance from the Second Stage of the Tour Qualifying Tournament last week.

Lundy withdrew from the Second Stage after the third round at Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Fla., with a pinched nerve in his back.

Lundy was at 7-over 223 after shooting scores of 74, 72 and 77 and said the pinched nerve was bothering him throughout the week.

The top 22 players at Southern Hills advanced to the Final Stage, and that cutoff was at 8-under 280.

Lundy said he’s unsure about his golf schedule this winter. “But I will be working as hard as I possibly can to make swing changes and physical improvements that I think will take me to the next level,” he said.

Dorn, a three-time All-Big South Conference selection who played in the 2014 U.S. Open, finished 76th at Deerwood Golf Club in Kingwood, Texas, on Friday after shooting an 18-over 306 with rounds of 75, 76, 77 and 78.

Twenty-four players at 3-under 285 or better at Deerwood advanced to the Q-School finals from Dec. 10-13 at PGA National at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

CCU graduate Charlie Winegardner tries to advance from his Second Stage site of Oak Valley Golf Club in Beaumont, Calif., from Tuesday through Friday.

Roberto Diaz of Myrtle Beach is exempt into the Final Stage based on his finish of 82nd on the 2015 Tour money list.

Chants sign Fort

States Fort of Evans, Ga., has signed a National Letter of Intent to play golf at Coastal Carolina beginning with the 2016-17 season.

Fort, who plays at Greenbrier High School, is listed 18th in the state of Georgia on the National Junior Golf Scoreboard (NJGS) ranking and 98th nationally in the Golfweek Boys Junior ranking.

Fort has 12 top-10 finishes in 20 tournaments this season and has a stroke average of 72.45 per round.

He claimed medalist honors with a 74 at the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour event in Augusta, Ga., carded a 71 at his high school’s sectional championship and posted a 67 at the Georgia State Golf Association Amateur Qualifier, in which he finished 10th with additional rounds of 72, 70 and 75. He finished second at the Future Masters event in Dothan, Ala., with rounds of 66, 69 and 67.

He led Greenbrier to a Class AAAAA state team championship in 2014 with a 72. Fort is also an accomplished student, holding a 4.0 GPA.

Sunbelt Tour wraps up

The Grand Strand-headquartered Sunbelt Senior Tour concluded its 2015 season last week with its Match Play Championship at the Surf Golf and Beach Club.

Steve Ford of Melbourne, Fla., won the senior division for players ages 45-54, Javier Sanchez of Fayetteville, Ga., won the Super Senior title for players ages 55-64, and and Bill Hardwick of Aurora, Ontario, Canada won the Legends division for players 65 and older.

Ford and Sanchez earned $5,000 each and Hardwick collected $3,000.

Ford beat Kevin Johnson of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 2 and 1 in the finals, and Sanchez beat Tim Conley of Braselton, Ga. 1 up in the finals. Ken Green of West Palm Beach, Fla., a past champion on the PGA Tour who lost part of his right leg in a highway accident in 2009, won twice by the scores of 8 and 7 and 1 up before retiring during his semifinal match with Conley.

Hardwick beat amateur Arlis Pike of Kernersville, N.C., 2 and 1 in the final.

The 2016 season is tentatively scheduled to begin Feb. 28-March 2 at Suntree Country Club in Melbourne, Fla. The Sunbelt Tour is owned and operated by Don Barnes of Longs.

Golden victorious

Patrick Golden of Murrells Inlet won his first South Carolina Junior Golf Association title on Nov. 8, winning the Cheraw Fall Challenge, which featured 177 players.

In challenging weather conditions, Golden took a lead with an opening-round 5-under 67 then shot a 1-under 34 at Moree’s Cheraw Country Club in a second round that was shortened to nine holes by weather.

Trevor Phillips of Inman shot the low score of 32 in the final round to pull within two shots of Golden and finish second, and reigning SCGA Junior champion Christian Salzer of Sumter finished third at 3-under 104.

Karsten Kenley of Myrtle Beach tied for 11th at 2-over 109 and Jackson Cole of Pawleys Island tied for 17th at 4-over 111. Smith Knaffle of Murrells Inlet finished fifth in the girls competition at 4-over 111.

Mid-Am in Carolinas

A national championship in 2018 won’t be far from the Grand Strand as the United States Golf Association has announced that Charlotte (N.C.) Country Club will host the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship from Sept. 22-27, 2018.

It will be the fourth USGA championship contested at Charlotte Country Club, which has also hosted the 1972 U.S. Amateur, 2000 U.S. Senior Amateur and 2010 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Designed by Donald Ross, Charlotte Country Club opened its first nine holes in 1910 and was an 18-hole course by 1915. Ron Pritchard completed a restoration of the course in 2007 and it also features a recently restored 68,000-square-foot clubhouse.

Other upcoming USGA events in the Carolinas include the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club and both the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball and 2019 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Resort.

Links Course reopens

Myrtle Beach can claim famed designer Rees Jones’ first solo project in Arcadian Shores Golf Club, and Wild Dunes Resort about 100 miles south in Isle of Palms can boast the first solo design of equally famous architect Tom Fazio.

And the 35-year old Links Course recently reopened following a six-month renovation project.

A redo of the 18th hole was necessitated by beach erosion that wiped out parts of the par-5 that doglegged to the right with the Atlantic Ocean surrounding the entire left side of the hole. It has been rebuilt into a 190-yard par-3 with the ocean to the left and behind the green.

The course, which is open to public play, had greens enlarged and old TifDwarf Bermudagrass putting surfaces were replaced by Champion ultradwarf Bermuda. Six miles of concrete cart paths were built, the irrigation system was replaced, bunker sand was added, a few new bunkers were built, and ocean and marsh views were opened up with the cleaning up of vegetation.

About 300 yards of length were added aside from the shortening of the 18th hole, and a clubhouse renovation is scheduled to be complete on Nov. 27.

Recent King Tides have eaten away more of what used to be the 18th fairway and green in recent weeks, but course operators hope to rebuild the hole back into a par-5 in the future if ocean and weather conditions allow, possibly after a beach renourishment project.

“Our philosophy is pretty much wait and see,” said Wild Dunes director of golf Jeff Minton. “Other than the 18th hole our golf course is pretty protected.”

Caddies take the mic

Golf Channel should get some interesting insight and commentary this week during its coverage of the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic at the Sea Island Resort – formerly the McGladrey Classic – with a pair of first-time on-course reporters.

Jim “Bones” Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s longtime caddie, and John Wood, Matt Kuchar’s looper, are off for the week and will give reporting a shot.

The gig will give Mackay and Wood a chance to receive the club selection signals from their usual counterparts and add some unique commentary to the event.

They will be working the second and third rounds and will also appear on the Morning Drive show Friday and Saturday live from Sea Island Golf Club.

Golf Channel’s coverage will run from 1-4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Nicklaus honored

Eighteen-time major champion Jack Nicklaus has been chosen to receive Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which honors athletes and sports figures that have embodied sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy.

Earlier this year, Nicklaus became just the seventh athlete to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor a civilian can receive. Nicklaus will receive the award at SI’s annual Sportsman of the Year celebration in New York on Dec. 15.