MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina – If golf buddy trips are all about eat, sleep, drink, golf…repeat, then the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship is the “Mother” of all golf buddy road trips.
Is there anything better than taking your mediocre golf game on the road and testing it out with four rounds of golf, over four different courses in 72 holes of stroke play competition?
Before answering with a definite “maybe” think about the amenities that go with your daily tee time. The perks include dogleg par 4s, elevated greens, gnarly rough, lots of white out-of-bound stakes, lots of red hazard stakes, island greens, creeks, ponds, marshes, fairway bunkers, greenside bunkers, devilish par 3s and double-bend par 5s. Throw in countless 3-putts, some alligator sightings, wind, heat and humidity index readings in the 90s, and you’ll create memories to last a lifetime. Whether those treasured moments are good or bad, well, that’s up to you!
When the last putt was holed on Grand Dunes Resort Course on September 3, the 2021 Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship celebrated its 38th consecutive tournament. The tally for this year for the world’s largest single-site golf experience featured 3,500 players from 50 states, 14,000 rounds played, 71 flights, 52 golf courses and 1 unforgettable week.
The Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach spans some 60 miles and includes 90 golf courses in its portfolio, thus earning the self-proclaimed title “Golf Capital of the World.”
This is where hardcore types like me, indulge with like-minded friends, and go on daily golf benders. The quest for birdies and bogies, inevitably, and sadly, ends with double and triple-bogeys. It’s everything in the hole and when the day is done, happy hour calls, then we get back at it the next day.
A $600 entry fee gets you $300 in gift bag goodies, four tee times, assigned flights by age and skill/handicap level, gift certificate prizes from PGA Tour Superstore to top-5 players in each flight, and last but not least free food, drinks, live entertainment and the camaraderie of the “World’s Largest 19th Hole” at the 120,000-square foot Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
Here are my favorite take-aways from this year.
• On the final day at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club I was paired with three golfers who had never met before. On the 18th hole, myself and one player made par, one birdied and one had three-putt bogey. We tallied our scorecards and amazingly we all had 84s for the day. What are the odds of that happening?
• The most popular vendor at the “World’s Largest 19th Hole” was not Ketel One, or Budweiser or Coors Light, it was the Friendly’s Ice Cream stand serving six choices of ice cream all four nights.
• My favorite food stand supplied heaping helpings of ‘Shrimp & Grits.”
• Myrtle Beach-native and former PGA Tour player & Golf Channel commentator Charlie Rymer served as Master of Ceremonies, giving away cash prizes for long putt and chipping contests, in addition to $10,000 in merchandise to random names drawn the final night.
• The 19th hole celebrity guests included Hank Haney, SIRIUS Radio PGA show co-hosts John MaGinnes & Brian Katrek, and Golf Channel’s Chantel McCabe.
• The top-5 in each flight won gift certificates of $600; $300; $150; $75 and $50 for fifth place. I was inside the top-5 for the first three days and painfully finished 8th missing the money by two, due to disastrous, atrocious putting. In 16 World Ams the record shows zero wins and one top-5.
• Discovered a sunglasses company called PeakVision (www.peakvision.com) among the 53 golf exhibitors that features “Zero Distortion Lens Technology” and negotiated a great deal for much-needed sunglasses.
• Saint Nine, a European golf ball company launched in the United States a few years ago, was a prominent sponsor giving away hundreds of golf balls for promotional purposes, while constantly selling two dozen for $20. A high-handicapper from Texas fondly refers to them as pond-fillers!
• Among the 3500 players, over 1000 were first-timers, including Richard Gianicola, of Marlborough, and a few from greater Boston area who met on the Spirit Airlines non-stop flight from Boston to Myrtle Beach.
• To get to my assigned course on time, the daily routine requires getting an early wake-up call, loading up the sun block, and more importantly, an afternoon power nap.
• Caravelle Resort https://www.thecaravelle.com/ served as my oceanfront hotel and after a rough day on the course a daily swim in the 76-degree ocean water temp was simply marvelous.
• Shout out to Myrtle Beach Ocean Rescue Team who pulled a swimmer out of a strong rip tide current using all available life guards and equipment to the amazement of hundreds of beach people watching. It’s scary to watch someone being pulled out of the ocean unconscious, but one life guard says it happens frequently up-and-down the beach, and most swimmers don’t notice the strong rip tide until its to late.
• When visiting Myrtle Beach, a must-stop is “Broadway on the Beach” offering a variety of entertaining options including restaurants, stores, games and goofy tourist gimmicks.
• Jean Oberg, 64, of North Palm Beach, Florida shot a net 67 (gross 89) to become the first woman in 12 years to win the Flight Winners’ Playoff at Grande Dunes Resort Course earning the official title: 2021 World Amateur Champion. https://tms.golfnet.com/registration/?eventId=13953#d_entrants
• The World Amateur Handicap Championship, golf’s largest single-site tournament, donated $50,000 to Project Golf, www.ProjectGolf.org a Myrtle Beach-based grow-the-game initiative.
• No sandbaggers are allowed in the World Amateur since it enforces a strict code that boots anyone who shoots way below their handicap for two consecutive rounds. Every year dozens of players are DQ’d but they’re allowed to play if they chose, but their score doesn’t count. I would love to be investigated for playing way below my handicap. Never been accused of sandbagging since I never win anything!
• Every World Amateur player application requires a USGA GHIN Handicap and the name and telephone number of the golf pro at your home club, should an investigation be conducted concerning handicap manipulation a/k/a cheating.
• The two states showing up with the most players Florida (371) and Texas and I was meeting “y’all folks from Texas” at every turn.
• I wore my new The Country Club (Brookline) 2022 U.S Open golf shirt to play Round 2 at Sandpiper Bay Golf & Country Club and the General Manager, Tim Tilma, looked at me and quipped: “What are you the starter there?” Guess I don’t look like a TCC member!
• Will I be back to Myrtle Beach August 29 – September 2, 2022 for the 39th edition and my 16th career appearance? You bet I will. It’s an absolute blast and you meet tons of friendly people, but it’ll be with a different putter!