CCU’s Hackler Championship returning to Dunes Club in 2017 with strong field

Alligators sun along the 13th fairway as North Carolina State's Stephen Franken prepares to hit a shot during the final round of Coastal Carolina's General Hackler Championship at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club on March 13.
Alligators sun along the 13th fairway as North Carolina State's Stephen Franken prepares to hit a shot during the final round of Coastal Carolina's General Hackler Championship at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club on March 13. Randall Hill/For The Sun News

Coastal Carolina University’s General Hackler Championship will be returning to The Dunes Golf and Beach Club in March 2017, and a tournament field that was finalized Monday includes defending champion South Carolina and reigning NCAA Division I champion Louisiana State.

“The field will be even better next year, and it’s crazy good,” Chanticleers men’s golf coach Kevin McPherson said.

The 16th annual tournament will be played March 10-12, 2017, as The Dunes Club’s nine-member board of directors has agreed to host the event for the third consecutive year.

The past two Hackler tournaments have been held on one-year agreements between CCU and the lauded and venerable club, and McPherson has been hoping to receive a longer commitment that will help him plan ahead and secure future participants.

It might be coming.

Dunes Club president Dr. James Merritt said the club’s board has discussed committing early to the 2018 event as well as creating a two- or three-year renewable contract that would give McPherson some security.

A decision on hosting the 2018 tournament on the same weekend dates in mid-March could be made within the next couple months. Merritt said The Dunes Club board and members have enjoyed hosting the event.

“I think as a club we’d like to give them a three-year block, but we probably would not obligate ourselves more than three years at a time,” Merritt said. “That’s the discussion we’re having now, and we have not decided upon that at this time. We are entertaining it.”

The Dunes Club consistently hosts national and regional tournaments, including the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship, and will be hosting the Southern Amateur in July and the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball Championship in May 2017.

Merritt said the club wants to keep its options open regarding future tournaments. “You never know who might come knocking,” he said.

Ten teams are returning from the 2016 tournament. In addition to South Carolina and host CCU, they are Virginia, Virginia Tech, N.C. State, East Carolina, North Florida, Kent State, Iowa State and Charleston Southern.

The five teams that are joining the field next year are LSU, Kentucky, Wake Forest, East Tennessee and Pepperdine. The latter three are all past Hackler champions.

Wake Forest is ranked 16th in Golfweek’s current college rankings while Kentucky is 33rd, Pepperdine is 37th and ETSU is 58th. Kentucky chose the Hackler event over Auburn’s tournament earlier that week.

“We’ve created a bit of a monster,” McPherson said. “When you have a really good tournament and really good product it piques a lot of interest. We have really good teams, we put a lot of emphasis into the event and word gets around.

“It’s a good problem to have because teams are reaching out to us. I’ve had to tell a lot of teams no. I’ve had to tell about 20 schools we’re full.”

LSU committed to participate in 2016 but dropped out in order to participate in the East Lake Cup, a two-day match-play event at East Lake Club in Atlanta featuring the top four teams from both the men’s and women’s NCAA Championships that is televised by Golf Channel.

The Pepperdine invitation earned the Chants a reciprocal invite to the 2018 Southwestern Jones Invitational at North Ranch Country Club outside Malibu, Calif.

Teams not returning from 2016 are North Carolina, Texas A&M, Charlotte, Winthrop and Tennessee Chattanooga. UNC committed to a Bandon Dunes tournament but expressed a desire to return in 2018, as did Texas A&M.

Tournament rounds will be played March 11-12, and a practice round and the Hackler Collegiate-Am will be held March 10.

The collegiate-am allows four amateurs to play with a top player from a participating school and foursomes were $1,350 with a hole sponsor sign and $1,200 without this year. Chanticleer Athletic Foundation Director of Development Rhett Graham is compiling a list of interested players and can be reached at 843-349-6610.

CCU women left out

The Coastal Carolina women’s golf team’s 2015-16 season came to a disappointing end Monday when the Chants and team members were not among the 72 teams and 24 individuals selected to the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championships by the event’s championship committee.

According to Golfweek’s Sagarin Rankings, the CCU women are ranked 56th in the nation and are 119-47-2 overall, 41-45-2 against the top 100, 10-29 against the top 50 and 4-10 against the top 25 teams in the country. The Chants’ 296.3 scoring average is the second best in program history.

“We were close on the rankings but our scoring average and win-loss record should have put us in,” CCU women’s golf coach Katie Quinney said. “I just feel awful my seniors have to finish like this.”

Lena Schaeffner of Germany, Marissa Hinchman of California and Bailey Cocca of New York were all seniors this year. Schaeffner won the 2015 Big South Conference individual title and finished second in a regional to become the first player in program history to advance to the NCAA Championships as an individual.

The Chants won the Edwin Watts Kiawah Island Classic hosted by College of Charleston and recorded top-seven finishes in seven of 10 events this season, but finished second by 10 strokes to No. 53 Campbell in the Big South Championship earlier this month at DeBordieu Club with an automatic NCAA berth on the line.

“This is just a really good example of needing the .500 rule in our sport,” Quinney said. In men’s collegiate golf, teams can only receive an at-large berth into the NCAA Championships if they have a winning record. The women don’t have that rule.

Jones Society coming

The Dunes Golf and Beach Club will host the 12th annual meeting of the Robert Trent Jones Society – a society formed to honor, preserve and promote the work of the influential golf course architect who designed The Dunes Club, which opened in 1948.

The three-day annual event will take place Sept. 23-25 and feature multiple speakers, a banquet, the annual business meeting and an informal 36-hole informal golf tournament for the Jones Cup.

Meeting attendees will include representatives from some of the top courses in the country.

Jack Borchelt, executive director and co-founder of the society, said it was created during a founding meeting at one of Jones’ better known designs, Spyglass Hill Golf Course in Pebble Beach, in September 2004 at the suggestion of someone affiliated with the Alister MacKenzie Society. Jones died in 2000.

The meetings generally get between 40 and 70 attendees, and members are through the participating golf courses, of which there are 19. Members also include Jones’ two sons Robert Jr. and Rees, and longtime lead architect Roger Rulewich, who designed the Grande Dunes Resort Course. Borchelt said representatives from 14 more North American clubs and eight international clubs have also been invited.

Attendees and speakers include Rees Jones, who renovated the course in 2013, Golf Magazine’s Travelin’ Joe Passov and James R. Hansen, the author of Jones’ biography “A Difficult Par.”

Citadel bound

Aynor’s Bailey Richardson was offered a half scholarship to play golf at The Citadel beginning this fall.

She turned it down … to accept a full academic scholarship at the military college and walk onto the women’s golf team.

Richardson is one of the top seniors at Aynor High and attended a scholar’s weekend at Citadel. The weekend included writing a paper in advance on a designated topic and debating papers with other prospective freshmen.

Richardson’s father, Joey, said his daughter has received the school’s prestigious Star of the West scholarship and will maintain a scholarship for four years if she maintains a B average. Richardson, whose swing instructor is Dale Ketola of Potential Golf at Farmstead Golf Links, has been invited into Citadel’s honors college.

“It goes to show you can excel in a sport and can still be good in school,” Joey Richardson said.

Club suspends Kisner

PGA Tour winner and Aiken native and resident Kevin Kisner confirmed on Twitter that he has been suspended from his home golf course, Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, after filming a video for Vice Sports prior to his first Masters.

In a video of about 7 minutes that was titled “Beer, Bets and Golf Cart Races: Kevin Kisner Preps for the Masters,” Kisner races and bumps golf carts in a multi-cart race and generally has fun with several buddies at the course. He said other members in the video were also suspended. Palmetto Golf Club was founded in 1892 and claims to be the second oldest course in the U.S. behind Chicago Golf Club.

Kisner, 32, lost in playoffs in both the RBC Heritage and The Players Championship last year before breaking through with his first PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga., in November.

Kisner has a house at Palmetto Club but he apparently has found another place to play and practice, as he tweeted Sunday that he was preparing for next week’s Wells Fargo Championship at the private Sage Valley Golf Club in nearby Graniteville. “Great condition of course, facility and people!” he tweeted.