Third in a series of daily first-person stories from the 35th Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.
By TONY LEODORA
Every once in a while a round at the World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach turns into an eye-opening experience.
No, I did not unlock Ben Hogan’s secret to the perfect swing. Nor did I find the silky-smooth putting stroke of a Ben Crenshaw … or my current favorite, Justin Rose.
My promising round was interrupted by a brief stretch of disasters, resulting in another day of mediocrity. But more about that later.
The story of the day was the Pine Hills course at Myrtlewood – site of our second round in the World Am.
Myrtlewood has always been a go-to property for me. Two courses – Pine Hills and Palmetto. Incredible location, in the geographic center of Myrtle Beach … right on 17 Bypass. Modern, two-bedroom villas on the property.
The layouts sit side-by-side, along the Intracoastal Waterway. Both opened in the 1970s – Palmetto designed by Ault and Clark and Pine Hills designed by Arthur Hills.
But the big change took place in the last few years, after the property was purchased by the Founders Group. A tip of the hat goes to the new ownership for the attention to detail that has elevated the quality of the golf experience.
Pine Hills, especially, has been given an impressive facelift. Most noticeable is the refurbished bunkers and the greens, re-grassed with Sunday Bermuda.
Everyone in our foursome agreed the course was a pleasant surprise.
Speaking of the group – it was another winning experience.
Don Betts is retired U.S. Army, who also worked abroad for the Department of Defense. He told stories of his time in Macedonia, where the only golf course was a five-hour drive. He also told of a round of golf he played in Turkey, when the temperature exceeded 120 degrees.
He was the only player on the course – except for one other, a traveling golf writer. Go figure.
Betts, who now lives in Sarasota, was on fire to start the round, recording par after par. He faded at the end but still recorded best round of the day. A very solid 80.
He was named cheerleader of the day. After a pep talk to our group on the tee of our 14th hole, the first birdie of the day was recorded. On the next hole … two more birdies. And two holes later, another birdie. One birdie by each of the four players.
Pete Demeter is an environmental engineer from Toronto, Canada. He had quite a few comments about the sunny, hot weather (close to 90 degrees) but also showed a very solid golf game and finished at 81.
Jeff Sherman is a native of Queens in New York, but has lived in Oldsmar, Florida for more than 15 years. He is an attorney who really hit a long ball, once he got loose. He had a number of problem holes but still managed to record an 83.
Problem holes? That would be an understatement in my case.
After hitting the ball well all day, and curing the yips on the short putts by changing my grip, I was headed for a low round. That was until the par 5 third hole – our 15th hole of the day.
One hole earlier I had left an approach shot inches short of the green. I plugged in the top of the bunker – in new sand – and the result was a brutal fried egg. I smashed down on the buried ball and managed to move it a few feet onto the green. Two-putted for painful bogey.
My wrist was aching when I got to the next tee, making the swing with the driver very awkward. I wound up holding on at the end of the swing and pulled the drive slightly right. It hit a tree on the left of the fairway … and bounced directly backwards 30 yards … into the water.
A well-played 5-wood found more hidden trouble on the right side of the fairway. More water … and a round-killing 9 on an easy par 5.
Still seething, the next hole was a short par 3 … but I bounced the tee shot off another tree … into the water again … double bogey.
Bounced back with a birdie and a solid par on the last two holes but the damage was done. A round of 85 and a spot in XXth place.
Rounds 3 and 4 will have to be miraculous in order to get into the Top 10. But there was a slight ray of hope after a day of great company … on an even greater golf course.
Special Note – my cart partner from the first round, Bob Linkous of Queenstown, Maryland, followed his opening 79 with the low round of the second day – a 76. He sits atop the flight.