“Sandbagger” Label Shadows 2023 Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Winner Christopher Rainey

Christopher Rainey, of Drums, Pennsylvania, is the 2023 Myrtle Beach World Amateur Champion, leaving many players and observers wondering how someone can legitimately win shooting a gross score of 99 and then deduct 31 handicap stokes to record a 4-under par 68 and not be considered a "sandbagger."

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina – The 40th edition of the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship is in the books, and as has been the case in many previous contests, the 2023 tournament had its share of controversy with the familiar complaint of “sandbagger.” In its glorious history, the event has created priceless moments, wild stories and indelible memories for the tens of thousands of amateurs who’ve participated in the largest golf tournament on the planet, and it was no different for this year’s 3,270 contenders.

For the first time ever the winner – Christopher Rainey, of Drums, Pennsylvania – shot the sixth highest gross score (99) but because he had the highest handicap (31) he won the Flight Winners Playoff held Sept. 1 at Grande Dunes Resort Course over 64 other Flight Winners. Rainey walked away with the prestigious trophy, notoriety and $600 gift certificate to PGA Tour Superstore.

Here is the winner’s – Christopher Rainey’s -scorecard showing gross score of 51-48-99.

Rainey, a 57-year old businessman and avid golfer, was crowned champion on a picture-postcard-perfect day in the heart of the “Grand Strand,” after posting a 4-under par net score of 68. Just a few minutes before Rainey posted his 4-under score, World Amateur Tournament Director Scott Tomasello huddled with his staff and made the decision to disqualify Harry Radley, who was leader in the clubhouse after posting a 7-under par score of 65. Harry Radley, 62, from Indianapolis, Indiana won the event in 2020.

Radley claimed to maintain a 10 handicap and won Flight 30, the Mid-Senior division for men aged 60-69. Tournament officials were red-flagged by Radley’s playing partners who were “stunned” with his overall playing ability as an alleged 10 handicap. One player in the group said he thought Radley should own a 1 or 2 handicap. After the front 9 Radley was leading the tournament with a 4-under par and in complete control of his game. Tournament officials quickly investigated and DQ’d him after he signed for the 7-under net score.

Harry Radley, 2020 Myrtle Beach World Amateur Champion, was disqualified by tournament officials who claimed he was a “sandbagger” after posting a 7-under par 65 at Grande Dunes Resort Course Sept. 1.

To protect the integrity of the tournament and prevent sandbagging by contestants, tournament officials have a reputation of zero tolerance for players who regularly shoot scores 5 or 6 stokes under their USGA GHIN handicap. Every year players are DQ’d for “sandbagging” after the committee conducts an investigation. They are usually tipped off from other amateur players in the field.

So, now comes the million dollar question for Scott Tomasello and tournament officials. How does a contestant like Christopher Rainey, who has played golf regularly for over 30 years, and, by his own admission, played almost every course in Myrtle Beach over the past 25 years, maintain a 31 handicap? Here is Rainey’s front 9 gross score of 51: 6-6-6-8-4-4-6-5-6. Deduct 15 strokes and he is even par 36. On the back 9 his gross score of 48 reads: 5-3-7-6-5-6-5-6-5. Is this the scorecard of a true champion or a true sandbagger?

Tournament Director Scott Tomasello presenting the 2023 Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap trophy to Christopher Rainey at Grande Dunes Resort Sept. 1.

“I’m thrilled to win,” said Rainey after being presented the World Amateur trophy by Tournament Director Scott Tomasello. “I never thought I had a chance to win after starting with three 6s and an 8. For 25 years I’ve been running buddy-trips to Myrtle Beach and this year I decided to give this a shot. And what do you know? I actually won.”

This year’s tournament created an embarrassing dilemma for the Myrtle Beach World Amateur executive team. When the event started as the Dupont World Amateur Handicap Championship back in 1984, the major complaint among players and observers was “sandbagging.” Now, 40 years later the chant of “sandbaggers” is as painstakingly accurate as it ever was.

Christopher Schultz (La Porte, Ind.) fired a three-round total of 209 to win the Men’s Gross Division title.

There was a five-way tie for first place at 3-under before Rainey made net birdie on the par 4 18th hole to earn the win, finishing one shot ahead of Joe Day (Conway, S.C.), Samuel Bland (Surfside, S.C.), Tom Fahringer (Valrico, Fla.), and Mike Zeeb (New Carlisle, Ind.).

Christopher Schultz (La Porte, Ind.) fired a three-round total of 209 to best David Hunt (Orlando, Fla.) by nine strokes to win the Men’s Gross Division title.

Mark Gardiner (North Salt Lake, Utah) captured the Men’s Mid-Senior Gross Division championship.

Russell Burnham (Dallas, Texas) edged Daniel Constantino (Greer, S.C.) by two shots en route to victory in the Men’s Senior Gross Division crown.

Mark Gardiner (North Salt Lake, Utah) finished seven strokes ahead of second place Michael Barclay (Cartersville, Ga.) to capture the Men’s Mid-Senior Gross Division championship.

Heidi Rittenhouse (Smithfield, N.C.) cruised to victory in the Women’s Gross Division, finishing 14 strokes ahead of second place finisher Beth Gutteridge (Rindge, N.H.).

Heidi Rittenhouse cruised to a 14-shot victory victory in the Women’s Gross Division.

Mike Zeeb (New Carlisle, Ind.) and Brock Zeeb (New Carlisle, Ind.), a father-son duo, combined to win the Casa de Campo Pairs Competition. By virtue of winning, the pair received a 4-day, 3-night stay at luxurious Casa de Campo and unlimited golf.

Entry into the Myrtle Beach World Amateur, which includes at least four rounds of golf, nightly admission to “The World’s Largest 19th Hole” and a gift bag, was $699 while 3,260 players from all 50 states and 17 countries descended on Myrtle Beach. Heat indexes in the 90s marred the first two rounds and the third round was deluged with rain from the remnants of Hurricane Idalia. The final round was cancelled due to Hurricane Idalia downsizing to a tropical storm that dumped 4-5 inches of rain in Myrtle Beach.

The World Am places players into 11 divisions – men 49 and under, senior men (50-59), mid-senior men (60-69), super senior men (70-79), seasoned seniors (80+), women (59 and under), senior women (60+), the gross division, senior (50+) gross division, mid-senior (60+) gross division, and women’s gross division. There is also a “Just For Fun” flight, created for players who want to enjoy the World Am experience without the pressure of competition.

On the web: MyrtleBeachWorldAmateur.com

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