Golf

Whispering Pines Golf Club is honoring its military history

jlee@thesunnews

The military past of Whispering Pines Golf Club is being recognized with new tee markers, tee names and the installation of plaques honoring the 28 former base commanders of the property.

The course is located on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, which closed in 1993, when the city of Myrtle Beach took over the course’s operation.

Four fighter squadrons called the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base home, and the layout’s four tee boxes have been renamed in their honor. The tees are now named Valor, Panther, Falcon and Green Hornet, and new tee box markers depicting the logos of the fighter squadrons have also been installed.

There were a total of 28 base commanders, and they have been recognized with plaques on the property that are in the mold of other historical plaques throughout the redeveloped Market Common area.

Each tee box has a plaque, and the other 10 have been placed around the back deck of the clubhouse near the 10th tee. Each plaque has a picture and short biography of each commander.

Chip Smith, whose Atlantic Golf Management company took over management of the course on Oct. 31, 2014, met with representatives of the city and Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority with the idea.

“I went to them and said let’s preserve some of the history of the base, and [the redevelopment authority] funded it,” Smith said. “We get a lot of retired military people who play golf down here, both tourists and locals, and I think it adds to the interest.”

There will be an official unveiling of the markers and plaques during a ceremony at 11 a.m. Tuesday that will include representatives of city government and base redevelopment authority and other guests.

Nine holes of the 6,731-yard par-72 layout opened in 1962 and a second nine opened in 1986. Golf course architects Joe Finger, Ken Dye and Baxter Spann designed the second nine and integrated them into the existing holes created by an Air Force engineer.

When it was military-owned, players had to be a guest of an active or retired military member to not only play the course but get on the base. Rates for military members were based on rank – privates played for the least amount (at one point $5) and generals the most.

Smith recently became a minority partner in the purchase of Binks Forest Golf Club in Wellington, Fla., in Palm Beach County, which will be renovated, converted to private status and renamed Wellington National Golf Club.

Royer back on course

After coming within a shot of qualifying for the 2015 U.S. Senior Open, and at the behest of some of his students, golf instructor and four-time Web.com Tour winner Hugh Royer III has resumed his professional playing career.

Royer, who teaches out of Possum Trot Golf Club in North Myrtle Beach, will continue teaching while entering Monday/Tuesday qualifiers for Champions Tour events in the hopes of making a run on the PGA Tour’s senior circuit.

All the while he’ll be preparing for the Champions Tour Qualifying Tournament in the fall.

“You go back to last year with the Senior Open qualifier and missing by one, it kind of gave me the itch that I can still do this and I want to do this,” Royer said. “At 52 years old I figure I’ve only got a few years left to give it a shot.”

Royer was a full-time member of the PGA Tour from 1996-98 and had four top-10 finishes in 98 career events. On the Web.com Tour, he won four times in 143 events – twice in both 1993 and ’95.

He settled into a teaching career for a while, opening the Champions Golf Academy at Long Bay Club before renewing a playing career in 2010 and 2011, often playing in Swing Thought Tour events and entering PGA Tour Q-School. It was largely in preparation for an anticipated attempt to join the Champions Tour after he turned 50, but he lost a financial sponsor after about a year of touring and returned to full-time teaching.

He was the lead instructor for the opening of the South Carolina Golf Center at Shaftesbury Golf & Fish Club in Conway in late 2014 before moving to Possum Trot.

Royer said many of his clients are encouratging him to play. “You teach these people and grab a club and show them how to do something, and they look at you and say, ‘You make it look so easy, why aren’t you doing this?’ ”

Last summer, Royer entered a U.S. Senior Open qualifier at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton and came within a shot of forcing a two-man playoff for a spot in the tournament. He ended up being the site’s second alternate.

He was preparing to enter Champions Tour Q-School late last year but had to skip it after he awoke one day with a pinched nerve and it lingered.

Royer is exempt from pre-qualifying that precedes the Monday/Tuesday qualifiers because of status gained through his Web.com wins, and has to pay just $100 to enter the qualifiers. Between four and seven tournament spots are available in each qualifier.

Royer has entered two thus far, shooting 74s before both the Mississippi Golf Resort Classic in late March and the Mitsubishi Electric Classic in Atlanta in mid-April to finish several strokes out of qualifying positions on both occasions.

He said the next Champions Tour event with qualifying is the June 3-5 Principal Charity Classic Des Moines, Iowa, and there will be another 10 to 12 for the remainder of the year. Royer is funding his own travel on the qualifier circuit with some help from a friend.

If Royer can qualify for a Champions Tour event, a top-10 finish earns a start in the next tournament.

“Hopefully I’ll get into the next one and build on it, and hopefully lightning strikes in a bottle and you win one then you can decide what you really want to do,” Royer said.

Royer said his play has been aided by Dr. David Haught of the Human Performance and Wellness Center in Little River, who has tried to get Royer’s body strength to match his golf swing. “It’s been kind of an eye-opening experience to wake up sore every morning, but it’s good for you,” Royer said.

Royer said he plans to continue teaching even if he becomes a regular member of the Champions Tour because the schedule is sparse enough.

“With teaching, if you’re busy you teach and work on the game in the down time,” he said. “I create relationships with my students and I hold them dear to me.”

Royer’s niche is junior golfers but he has clients of all ages. Student Hailey Cleary of Lexington, whose junior titles include The Blade Junior Classic, will play at Limestone College next year and Nicholas Beiers of Lexington was named to the North-South All-Star high school competition and will play at Coker College.

TPC adds GolfBoards

The TPC Myrtle Beach is the second golf course on the Grand Strand to offer GolfBoards, joining True Blue Golf Club, which began offering them last November. Both facilities have started with four.

A GolfBoard is a fun alternative to a golf cart for individual players that resembles a hybrid of a skateboard, surfboard and snowboard.

Clubs go on the front of the battery-powered GolfBoard, which has four-wheel drive, a stabilizing handlebar and thumb accelerator button. A user steers the board by shifting weight – similar to a skateboard or surfboard. The board immediately slows to a stop if the accelerator button is released.

Golfboards are easier on the turf than golf carts, allow users to get closer to greens and allow them to burn more calories with the movement required to steer.

TPC Myrtle Beach is offering the GolfBoards for a fee comparable to a cart fee. It was named the “Best New Product” at the PGA Merchandise Show when it was introduced in 2014. GolfBoards can be reserved by calling TPC Myrtle Beach at 843-357-3399.

BMW names celebs

A total of 26 actors, musicians and athletes are set to join Web.com Tour golfers in the $675,000 BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by Synnex Corporation from May 19-22 at three courses in the Greenville area.

Two-sport star Brian Jordan, who played football for the Atlanta Falcons and baseball for a few teams including the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, actor Alfonso Ribiero of America’s Funniest Home Videos and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, gold-medal Olympian Dan Jansen and musician Drew Copeland of Sister Hazel will each by making their debut in the event.

Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus, Oliver Hudson (Nashville), and former quarterback Jim McMahon are among the returning celebrity players.

The celebrity roster for 2016 also includes: Andy Buckley (The Office), Anthony Anderson (Blackish), Bill Engvall (Blue Collar Comedian), Danny Masterson (That 70’s Show), Dean Felber (Hootie & the Blowfish), Debbe Dunning (Home Improvement), Dennis Haysbert (The Grinder), Gary Valentine (King of Queens), Grant Show (Melrose Place), Javier Colon (The Voice winner), Jordan Masterson (Last Man Standing), Jose Alvarez (Atlanta Braves), Kira Kazantsev (Miss America 2015), Lisa O’Hurley (clothing designer), Mark Bryan (Hootie & the Blowfish), Michael Pena (The Martian), Richard Karn (Home Improvement) and Rob Morrow (Billions).

The celebrities and pros will be paired with other amateur players in the unique Web.com Tour event.

For the first time, each celebrity will be paired with a benefiting local charity for the Charity Cup. Online donations can be made using a special icon found on www.bmwcharitygolf.com, where donors can select a celebrity and make a pledge based on the number of holes they will play. The celebrity’s partner local philanthropic organization, as well as their charity of choice, will each receive a portion of the net revenue from the Charity Cup.

For the second consecutive year, the event will also include a free celebrity concert on Main, as well as an exclusive VIP concert. A concert on May 19 featuring tournament participants is open to the public, and tickets to a May 20 concert are $250 and include entertainment, a menu by Larkin’s on the River and and beverages, and can be purchased through South Carolina Charities Director of Sales Linda Johnson at 864-517-2383 or ljohnson@sccharities.org.

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