First 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
The 35th World Amateur Handicap Championship gets underway tomorrow in Myrtle Beach. While I am not one of the very few who have competed in all 35, I can say I made it through at least half of them.
I say “made it through” because that does not count last year when I had to withdraw at the start of the event due to severe neck and back issues. In other years my ultimate goal was to win my flight. Finished in the Top 10 twice, once reaching as high as fourth.
This year’s goal – just to make it through all four rounds of play.
Like many golfers, I always get to Myrtle Beach early. My excuse is a need to prepare for the annual GolfTalk Live Tournament Preview Show.
The real reasons are two:
1. Who wouldn’t want to be in Myrtle Beach at this time of year? The courses are in great shape and the town is providing an exciting end to the summer season.
2. There is a rigid practice regimen that I follow to get ready for four (and, maybe some year, five) rounds of competition.
The preparation begins shortly after arriving on Thursday. After a bit of radio work, I make a beeline to Barefoot Resort. This complex of four great courses also has one of the best practice facilities on the entire Grand Strand. There is a mammoth grass driving range, short game practice areas and a number of great putting greens.
And, truth be told, it is the only practice area in the area with its own outstanding sports bar just a few paces behind the driving range. I spent equal amounts of time on the range and in the sports bar.
Friday is another day of radio preparation – but it is interspersed with my longest practice session of the year. As always on Myrtle Beach Friday, the location is Grande Dunes. Along with Barefoot, these are the best places to practice anywhere in the region.
Another huge driving range is one Grande Dunes highlight. But the other is two separate short game areas that allow golfers to practice just about every “touch shot” in the book.
Add the fact that the 8,000 square foot putting green features champion Bermuda grass, providing a velvet smooth surface.
Note to visitors: Grande Dunes has remodeled the outside of the clubhouse, as well as adding new Yamaha carts with the most modern GPS system.
Saturday is the one day I play a round of golf, other than the scheduled ones in the tournament. This year I visited the newly renovated Arcadian Shores.
This course dates back to 1974 and is the first solo design of Rees Jones, after moving out from under the wings of his very famous father, Robert Trent Jones.
It is an excellent layout, constructed on a wonderful piece of property that presents elevation changes, majestic hardwood trees and interesting water features. But, over the years, it fell into disrepair.
The current owners, the Burroughs & Chapin Company, finally made a major decision to tear down the old clubhouse, build a new one and renovate the golf course. That work was unveiled last October and it took a few months to settle in.
“The partners really made a commitment to this course,” explained Frank Coughlin, PGA professional and general manager. “The response by everyone who has come back is amazing.”
The net result is a great new/old golf course. Old in terms of its classic design and stately nature … new in terms of modern turfgrass technology and magnificent creature comforts in the up-to-date clubhouse.
My fellow competitors at Arcadian Shores, as always, made for an interesting day.
Mike Jamison is a golf industry veteran and president of the Jamison Golf Group, based in Lake Mary, Florida. He always plays, then mans a booth at night.
Mitch Laurance is an actor, as well as the play-by-play announcer for women’s professional billiards on ESPN. His wife, Ewa Mataya, is his color commentator – as well as a former world champion billiards player.
Jim Davis is a Philadelphia area businessman, who has played in a number World Ams over the years. It might be safe to say that nobody enjoys the week at the World Am more than “Jimmy D.”
Most mornings during the week begin early, so there are not many late nights Saturday is the exception. It is a night out on the town.
For that reason – and the need for some rest – a round of golf is never scheduled on Sunday. If the body allows, there will be a bit more practice and a trip to Broadway at the Beach at night for the official Opening Ceremonies of the Championship.
And, on Monday morning, the challenge begins. Hopefully the rest of the stories this week include no tragic details or withdrawals.
Fairways and greens.