Myrtle Beach’s golf courses will be busier than normal between August 31 – September 4 as over 3,400 male and female amateur golfers from around the world converge to compete in the 32nd edition of the World Amateur Golf Championship. Widely regarded by competitors as the “Everyman’s U.S Open”, the World Am provides serious amateur golfers with as close to a PGA TOUR experience as they’ll ever get. It’s like playing in a club championship times 10. More than 60 golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area play host to any one of the 70 flights comprised of golfers with handicaps ranging from 0 to 36. Regardless of your experience or golf acumen, if you have a legitimate handicap, you’re welcome to compete for bragging rights to the Claret Jug of amateur golf. Sandbaggers need not come as the organizers of the tournament scrutinize everyone who registers ensuring “you are what you say you are”. So if your index is 10, you can be sure that you’ll be playing with others who have the same handicap. It’s for this reason that the World Am has been so successful. Rest assured, the man or women who emerges victorious after four days of intense competition earned the right to call him/herself the World Am Champion.
2015 marks the third time I’ve competed in the World Am. I arrived on Sunday via a direct WestJet flight from Toronto in just over two hours. When I arrived, the skies were clear but Hurricane Erika was making its way north along the coast from Florida. My first round would be at TPC Myrtle Beach, a challenging opener designed by Tom Fazio known for its tight fairways and tiered greens. It’s also the home of Dustin Johnston’s golf school, a Myrtle Beach resident, so I presumed the course had to be good. After picking up my World Am player gift bag (value $300) at one of the two local PGA TOUR Superstores, I decided to check out the course in the afternoon only to be turned back by the start of a storm that would saturate Myrtle Beach for the next 24 hours. By Sunday evening the rain was hard and steady but no word had been sent out by tournament organizers about the status of Monday morning’s 9am shotgun start.
Day 1 – Wash out at TPC Myrtle Beach and other participating World Am courses
The rain only intensified throughout Monday morning forcing the golf course to cancel our round. It wasn’t just where I was playing, the same decision was made at all but three golf courses to cancel play for the day. As a fellow competitor said later that night, “there is a 3000-way tie after Day 1 at the 2015 World Am!” Fortunately the forecast for Tuesday called for the end of the wet weather. The World Am was now a 54-hole event.
In addition to playing some of Myrtle Beach’s best golf courses, the World Am is as much about the evening festivities, otherwise known as the “19th hole”, where all competitors and their guests come to indulge in copious amounts of food and alcohol. For some, this is the reason they come back every year. It’s also about the friendships people make as there are many players that have competed in this event for more than 20 years. In the three years I’ve attended the World Am, I’ve met some really great people who share a common passion for the game. The 19th Hole takes place every night from 6-9pm at the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Centre, centrally located in Myrtle Beach. Monday night’s celebrity golf guest was Charlie Rymer, the Golf Channel’s affable host who shared plenty of PGA player stories with the attentive crowd.
Day 2 – Round 1 begins under sunny skies
What a difference a day makes. The remnants of Hurricane Erika were now history and the hot temperatures and sunny skies returned to the Grand Srand. Tuesday morning marked the start of the 2015 World Am as 3,400 golfers descended on 60 participating courses in time for their 9am shotgun start. My second venue was a lesser known course called Possum Trot, a 6,966-yard golf course located in north Myrtle Beach. Fortunately I didn’t have to play from the back tees, instead playing from the more modest white tees that measured 6,343 yards. Due to the heavy rain, we were allowed to play “lift,clean,and place” which everyone appreciated.
I really enjoyed the golf course and would certainly recommend it. The course is very playable with no “gimmicky” holes. The fairways are generous from the tee and the bermuda-grass greens were tricky but true and in excellent condition. I especially liked the par 5’s as every one was reachable in two provided you hit a stellar tee and approach shot. Green fees vary throughout the day but at this time of year you can play for as little as $35 which includes your cart fee. Great value for a really good golf experience. For more information about Possum Trot, check out their website at www.possumtrot.com.
After an unimpressive first day – I’ll need to play better Wednesday – I returned back to the Convention Centre for the second instalment of the 19th hole. Tonight featured John Daly, former PGA and British Open Champion, who was more than willing to share several of his life and tour experiences and stories with the crowd. He remains a fan favourite as many can relate to the trials and tribulations he has endured. One of his most humourous comments had to do with “knowing a little something about being married”. He also talked about winning the 1995 Open Championship at St. Andrews and having to pay 7,000 pounds (approx. $15,000 U.S) from his $125,000 first-place prize money for a dupilcate of the Claret Jug. To this day, the Open Champion gets to keep the real Claret Jug for a year, but if you want your own, you have to pay for it. I wonder what Zach Johnson will decide to do.
Two great days from the 2015 World Am. More tomorrow night.