Category: Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship


August 30, 2013

Ohio golfer leaves South Carolina with World Amateur title

Posted at 7:03 PM by Coleman McDowell
Bisceglia-winner

The 30th annual Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Challenge concluded Friday afternoon with Rich Brennan taking home the trophy at the Dye Course at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C. 

Brennan, a 19-handicapper from Ohio, won flight 51 in the Mid-Senior Men division with net rounds of 69, 68, 70 and 67 to secure a spot in Friday's championship round. He bested 98 other flight winners with a final round net 62 to take home the silver platter.

The difficult Dye Course didn't allow for many birdies on the day. Waste bunkers line almost every fairway waiting to grab any errant drive, and the closing holes of each nine recall the final hole at TPC Sawgrass where water comes into play off the tee and on the approach. The best gross score was a 77 by Al Bodford, whose 14-handicap took his net score down to a 63 and a second-place finish.

6a00d8341caaef53ef01901f04f70c970bIn the first "Super Senior" flight for men ages 70 and up, Charles Brank opened the tournament with a first-round 65. That was without his handicap. The 7-handicapper's net score was finalized at a 58 to grab the opening round lead. After the first day, his handicap was adjusted down to a 5 for the second round and eventually reached a 3 for the final day. Brank couldn't follow up his opening day magic the rest of the week and posted scores of 79, 74 and 84 to close the week. He finished tied for 13th. His 65 stood as the only round in the 60s for his flight.

For entry into next year's 2014 World Amateur, all you need is a handicap. Get one here with Golf.com's Handicap Tracker and  enjoy all the World Amateur has to offer next year.

(Photo via WorldAmGolf.com)

Roger Clemens owns stage at World Am 19th Hole

Posted at 9:02 AM by Coleman McDowell

It's not Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, but Roger Clemens still has his game face on. 

Whether it was when he was on stage in front of a huge crowd at Wednesday night's 19th Hole or speaking to the fans afterwards, you could tell the way Clemens was playing in the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Challenge was killing him. 

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner mentioned one of his main problems was deciding on a set of clubs with several sets of irons and different putters and drivers in the trunk of his car. 

"I'm not playing very well this year, but I love the event. It's a great turnout," said Clemens, who holds a 3.8 handicap in the Senior (age 50-59) division.

One of the main issues for Clemens has been a drastic change in shot shape. He normally plays a power fade which allows him to control balls off the tee. This year, he's hitting it like a Nascar driver drives.

"I only turn left now," Clemens joked about his new-found hook shot.

His playing partner Wednesday at Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club witnessed 'The Rocket' shoot a 86, but no "good shots" were uttered.

"I actually got to play with a guy from China," Clemens said. "Even though there was a little bit of a language barrier, we had a lot of good smiles and a few thumbs up, and we had a great time. We helped each other out a little bit."

Clemens, who has played in this event for several years, is the biggest celebrity at the World Amateur and keeps coming back.

"It is great competition," Clemens said. "You're going to see a number of golf courses here in Myrtle Beach. You have to tip your hat the golf courses that have us out. They keep the care and keep the course nice for us when we come down to play this event. People come from far away to play this event wanting to have friendly compeition, and that's exactly what it is."

Clemens finished the tournament tied for 35th with rounds of 88, 90, 86 and 80. 

"The week has been just like the other times I've been here, a great deal of fun," Clemens said.

(Video: Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday)

Related: Get your handicap to register for the 2014 World Amateur

August 29, 2013

World Amateur brings indoor par-3 to Myrtle Beach

Posted at 10:47 AM by Coleman McDowell

PhotoThe main festivities of the World's Largest 19th Hole at the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship are held in the massive convention center adjacent to the Sheraton Hotel in Myrtle Beach. Amid all of the free food and beer you could want and all of the swing aids and golf equipment you could buy, the island green of the most famous par-3 in the country sits and waits in the very back of the building. 

No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass. Well, kind of. The World Am's version isn't quite the same, but it does have a huge blue water hazard that wrecks rounds at Sawgrass. There isn't any wind to speak of, and the balls are a foam orange instead of a dimpled white. But that doesn't stop participants from forming the second-longest line of the event (The ice cream stand's queue in the hallway is the clear winner.)

Golfers wait in line to take on the feared par-3 for a chance at the closest to the pin award that's presented nightly. Each winner from Monday-Thursday receives a SkyCaddie GPS watch and at the end of the week all four winners battle for free entry into the 2014 World Amateur. 

This is only a small corner of the World's Largest 19th Hole. If you want to join the fun for 2014, all you need is a USGA handicap. Don't have a handicap? Use the Golf.com Handicap Tracker to get ready for next year. 

 

August 26, 2013

Greetings from the 2013 Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship

Posted at 11:16 AM by Coleman McDowell

6a00d8341caaef53ef0177445df071970d-800wiGolfers flock to Myrtle Beach year-round. For one week in August, more than 3,300 do.

The reason? The Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship. 

The format can only happen in a place like Myrtle Beach, where golf courses are almost as common as taxis in New York City. Players are divided by handicap into more than 60 flights and sent out to one of 60 tournament courses -– which barely make up half of the courses on the Grand Strand. Each flight takes on a different course for four days with the winners playing an 18-hole playoff Friday. This year the Pete Dye course at Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach hosts Friday's finale.

Now in its 30th year, the World Am has experienced an 8 percent climb in participation this year for its largest field since 2008, according to The Sun News. The event is called the "World" Amateur for a reason. There are 27 countries represented, with one participant traveling from Sweden for his 20th consecutive appearance. 

Tournament golf is rough, especially for the recreational player who has never had to putt out those "gimmes." But the hosts at Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday have thought of everything to help competitors unwind from a long day on the course. The "19th Hole" is at the massive Myrtle Beach Convention Center, (check out the PDF of the venue setup for the week), and each night live music and food from local restaurants mix with golf vendors, guest speakers and club demos for a perfect way for a golfer to spend the evening. You won't be thinking about that triple-bogey here. 

Along with four rounds of golf, five if you're lucky, each participant receives a gift bag that includes a jacket, golf shirt, hat, pair of socks, swing lesson, sleeve of balls and -- if that wasn't enough -- $20 to spend at the nearby 70,000-square foot PGA Tour Superstore. 

Sound like fun? If you're over 17 years of age and have a USGA handicap (or foreign equivalent) then you're all set. Don't have a handicap? Use the Golf.com Handicap Tracker to get ready for 2014.

August 31, 2012

Robert Mieczkowski wins 29th annual GOLF.com World Amateur Handicap Championship

Posted at 8:33 PM by Ryan Reiterman

Robert-Mieczkowski-World-Am-Web-450x309MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- All Robert Mieczkowski wanted to do Friday was relax and have fun. It turned out to be the winning formula.

Mieczkowski, an 11-handicap, shot a gross 76 and a net 65 to capture the 29th annual GOLF.com World Amateur Handicap Championship. He beat out 74 other flight winners, including Roger Clemens, who was in contention until a late double bogey ended his chances.

For Mieczkowski (pictured on the left), it was by far the biggest win he's ever had on the links.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "It goes to show you anyone can win."

A total of 3,091 players from 49 states and 25 countries competed for four days in their respective flights. The winners of each flight teed it up Friday at TPC Myrtle Beach to crown a champion. Among those was Clemens. Last week he pitched for the Sugar Land Skeeters, an independent minor-league team, but this week he was just another amateur golfer having fun in Myrtle Beach.

"I think it's good competitive golf," Clemens said after his round. "With everyone's handicap in play, it makes if fair for everybody."

Mieczkowski, a ship supervisor at an oil storage plant in Old Bridge, N.J., was proof of that. With a bunch of his friends from Jersey cheering him on, Mieczkowski just tried to relax and enjoy yet another round of golf. But after firing a net 31 on his opening nine, he started to realize he might have a chance of winning.

When a tournament organizer showed up on the 17th tee with a video camera, Mieczkowski really started to feel the pressure. To break the tension, he was assured it was a "good luck camera," but that was little comfort.

"On the last three holes, I've never felt that kind of pressure," he said.

And it showed. He shanked his second shot on the par-4 8th (his 17th hole), and it led to a double bogey. But Mieczkowski held it together and got up-and-down for a par, net birdie, on the final hole to secure the win by one shot over Frank Payne of Aynor, S.C.

Mieczkowski, who was playing in the World Am for the seventh year in a row, credited his good play this year to playing a lot of golf leading into the event. He owns a condo in Myrtle Beach, and after a stressful few weeks at work, he came down on Aug. 19 and played nearly every day before the World Am.

After collecting his trophy and posing for photographs, Mieczkowski was off to celebrate his big win.

"We're going to grab some wings at Hooters, and we'll see what happens from there," he said.

Roger Clemens ties for ninth at World Am finals

Posted at 8:33 AM by Golf.com

The most famous player at the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship also happened to be one of the most famous pitchers in the history of baseball, and he also happened to be one of the finalists at the 3,091-player tournament being held this week in Myrtle Beach, S.C. 

Roger Clemens tied for ninth among 74 players to reach the final round Friday, in which all the flight winners squared off for the title. Clemens, an eight handicap, shot a net 71.

Robert Mieczkowski, an 11 handicap, shot a net 65 to win the championship by one stroke.

Complete scores are here.

Chinese Delegation embraces the game, the World Am and all that Myrtle Beach has to offer

Posted at 8:23 AM by Michael Bamberger

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Among the 3,091 golfers playing the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship this week, eight were from China. They were the so-called Chinese Delegation, and they were ferried to their appointed rounds in a van with a driver who knew the roads and a translator who spoke perfect English. Still, they were often late.

Understandably so. This gang of eight was making its first trip to the Grand Strand. You might come for the golf, but at some point Myrtle's other charms are going to suck you in. Where else are you going to find neighboring hotels with names like Hotel Blue and Buzzard's Roost and mini-golf courses with names like Jurassic Golf and Professor Hacker's Lost Treasure? To say nothing of the many, many stores that sell no item over $7.99.

"The comment I heard the most was, 'We need more time for shopping,'" said the group's translator, Jane Zhang. She is a Chinese-educated physicist who lives here, and when she began her gig this week she knew nothing about golf. Then she watched her charges drop $12,000 at the PGA Tour Superstore. Now she knows: Golf is an addiction that needs no passport.

Thursday night, the Chinese Delegation was on the stage at the Convention Center here, getting souvenir coins from the mayor of Myrtle Beach, John Rhodes, himself a former assistant golf pro. He handed each of the eight what could double as a gigantic ball marker with the seal of the city on it. The golfers gave the mayor little Chinese bows and tentative American handshakes.

They were, in varying degrees, a skinny bunch, but in Myrtle Beach the Chinese golfers were loading up on ice cream and French fries and various libations. Still, after a week in America, they remained skinny.

There was a lone woman among the eight, Y.E. Qiaobo, a winner of three speed-skating medals at the '92 and '94 Olympics, in the height of the Bonnie Blair era. Now she's nearing 50 and has turned herself into a sort of glamorous figure with long black hair and perfect teeth and an emerging golf game. She's been playing for three years and she can make a bunch of pars. She claimed to have had three helpings of ice cream on Thursday. She did not claim to have made any holes-in-one.

After the presentation of the city coins, a subset of the delegation retreated to a loading dock where they sat on folding chairs and talked about their visit while convention workers on break smoked cigarettes in the muggy late-summer air. One of the group was Min Yang, a Chinese PBR distributor, who was one of the sponsors of the group. The pony on his Polo shirt was so big you could have cut it off and taken it for a ride. (On Tuesday night, he presented the mayor with a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844, which costs $44 per bottle. The mayor said it didn't look like the PBR he grew up drinking.)

Winsen Qian Yong Shen, in a pink shirt and lime-green pants, looked like Webb Simpson on an ordinary day at the office. He wore his collar up. His name, I was told, means, "Always wins money." He did not know about Webb Simpson. Or Nick Faldo. Or Arnold Palmer. He knew a lot about Tiger Woods. And he had heard of Jack Nicklaus. "The Golden Bear," he said.

"The Golden Bear?" repeated Dr. Zhang, the translator.

Jack Nicklaus's nickname, I said.

"Jack Nicklaus?" she said.

"The Golden Bear," I said.

"The Golden Bear?" she repeated.

None of this is going to be easy.

I asked Winsen if he had heard of Donald Trump. He had not.

Right about then, Mayor Rhodes joined the group.

"Mayor Rhodes, could you explain to your visitors who Donald Trump is?"

He said, "Donald Trump is a very well known investor. He may not be the best investor. But he is a very well known investor."

Winsen, through the translator, said, "Why are you asking about Donald Trump?"

I explained that Trump was actively buying and building golf courses, that he was bullish on the game, just as the Chinese were. I told the Chinese Delegation what Trump once told me, that the game will take hold in a major way in China because golf is a great gambling game and the Chinese love to gamble.

Winsen smiled at this and, in nearly perfect English, said, "The whole world loves to gamble."

August 30, 2012

Improved play at demanding Glen Dornoch, and a Q&A with the winner of my flight at the World Am

Posted at 7:57 PM by Gary Van Sickle

Worldam_300LITTLE RIVER, S.C. -- Glen Dornoch was a suitable site for Flight 1's grand finale in the World Amateur Handicap Championship here Thursday. Glen Dornoch rivals yesterday's course, Oyster Bay, for scenic beauty with marsh and water views. Jet skis whizzed down the Intracoastal Waterway, along with assorted pleasure craft, plus the monstrous Aqua-sino, a sea-going casino.

Plus, Glen Dornoch is one of the beasts of Myrtle Beach. It's a strong course, with a manly 145 slope from the tips. Luckily, the course got hammered with rain Wednesday night, so pro shop manager Vickie Heher moved many of our tees up from the tips and allowed us to play lift-clean-and-place throughout course, which was a real life-saver for those of us who found the grabby bermuda rough. Even with the weather rules in place, Glen Dornoch was a handful.

Thursday I suddenly started hitting shots on the center of the clubface, unlike the previous three rounds, and played well. I holed a bunker shot for an unlikely birdie at the par-3 17th to get to five under but three-putted from long range on No. 2, our final hole, to shoot a four-under 68, the low round of the day, and according to Heher, the lowest score she's heard of at mighty Glen Dornoch in her eight years there. It's a double-asterisk score, though, because of the conditions we played, but it looks good on the scorecard.

It wasn't near enough to get me into contention. I was out of it after the opening round. The winner teed off in the next-to-last pairing and was the right man in the right place when the guys in the final threesome backed up. His name is Jim Thompson. He's 41 and he's a train engineer originally from Fort Wayne, Ind., who currently resides in Willard, Ohio. He brought a 1.3 handicap to the World Am and said he got two strokes in three of the four tourney rounds and one stroke in the other. He had no idea he'd won the flight until he reached the Glen Dornoch parking lot to unload his clubs and heard the scores of the players in the last group.

By winning the flight, Thompson advances to Friday's World Amateur Handicap Championship finale, where the winners of the all the flights duke it out for 18 holes, with strokes, of course, for the coveted overall title. I caught up with Thompson in the Glen Dornoch grill room after the round. Here are some of our Q&A highlights:

Q: How many times have you played in the World Am?
Thompson: This is my fifth year. I was in the final group on the last day last year and shot 90.

Q: Ninety? What happened?
Thompson: Nothing. It was just really slow and the pace got to me.

Q: Did you feel any pressure in that pairing?
Thompson: No, I don't even come here to win. I just come here to have a good time and hang out with my buddies.

Q: And have the occasional adult beverage?
Thompson: There you go, yes. I come down with a couple of other guys from Ohio. Willard is 40 miles straight south of Cedar Point, the amusement park on Lake Erie, if you know where that is. They're a rowdy group. We're driving back together. That'll be fun. I think.

Q: What was it like in today's round?
Thompson: I thought I was out of it. I was fourth going into today. I knew one of the guys in the last threesome, and he gave me a thumbs-up one time, so I thought they were shooting well. I didn't think I had a chance. I thought another guy in my group beat me because he birdied 16. I thought I had to birdie 17 and 18 to catch him, but I parred in.

Q: Did you hone your game to a fine edge in preparation for this week?
Thompson: Ha. No, I haven't even played all that much this summer, just a few scrambles, that's about it. I'm a member at Willard Country Club, a nice nine-hole course.

Q: Willard? They don't have rats in the clubhouse, do they?
Thompson: No, why?

Q: You never saw the movie, Willard, about the weird kid who used an army of rats to attack his enemies?
Thompson: No, I don't remember that one.

Q: You're really a train engineer? So you must've seen Denzel Washington in the runaway train movie, Unstoppable, didn't you?
Thompson: Sure. That was based on a true story. That train was actually out of Toledo and we run that branch, so we know all about the 8888, the number of that engine. It was a true story but they kind of gave it the Hollywood treatment.

Q: What's your career engineering highlight?
Thompson: None. All I do is drive trains.

Q: That's cool.
Thompson: It's not that cool. Stopping traffic?

Q: Seriously, how many people get to drive a train?
Thompson: A lot. A lot of people work on trains.

Q: What was your greatest moment in golf before this week?
Thompson: I really couldn't tell you. I won a couple scramble events.That's about it. I just play golf for fun. I had a hole-in-one once, a 9-iron from 155 yards in Galion, Ohio. At Valley View, I think.

Q: You're not sure of the course? It was that unforgettable?
Thompson: Only two people saw it, and nobody was in the clubhouse when we got in, so I didn't have to buy many drinks.

Q: Is this the pinnacle of your golfing career?
Thompson: It probably would be, yes. 

Q: You don't seem excited enough. Maybe that's what three beers have done for you.
Thompson: It's been more than three so far.

Q: What are you doing to prepare for the final?
Thompson: Go out and drink more beers with my buddies tonight.

Q: Good plan. How's it feel to be in the World Am final with all the other flight winners Friday?
Thompson: It's going to be hard. I've got no shot at all. I'll have to shoot a 60 or something.

Q: It's a low-net world, not a low-gross world. But at least you made the bonus round, so that's neat.
Thompson: It is neat. I never expected to, that's for sure.

Q: Do you have any other sporting highlights in your life?
Thompson: I played baseball at Anderson University in Indiana. I played semi-pro football for seven years, then I played two years for the Simbach Wildcats in Germany. It was a pro team.

Q: How'd you get that gig?
Thompson: I'd gone to a couple of scouting combines. I was a quarterback with a pretty good arm. I was on the first tee of a golf course in Fort Wayne when I got a phone call from some guy in Germany asking me if I wanted to play for them. I thought it was a joke. I told him I'd call him back.

Q: It wasn't a joke?
Thompson: No, it was real, I spent two years over there. Germany was awesome. It's so clean, the people were so nice and they treated you really well.

Q: They also specialize in beer.
Thompson: They ruined it for me. I don't like any of the beer over here as much as theirs. I liked that wheat beer they had.

Q: What NFL quarterback was your style most like?
Thompson: Somebody with a big arm who couldn't move. Who would that be? Not John Elway, he could move pretty well.

Q: I don't know. Maybe Jeff George? Well, go out in that World Am final and make us proud.
Thompson: Make who proud?

Q: Everybody in your flight. You're representing all of us.
Thompson: So when I shoot a 90?

Q: Then you're not representing us anymore. You're fired.
Thompson: I"m going to be trying so hard to shoot 60 that I probably will shoot 90. You shot 68 today? That's a good score anywhere. Even in Willard. Maybe you should play for me.

Q: I don't think so. You earned it. Plus, you've got at least a five-beer lead on me.
Thompson: Yeah, I'm going to be hard to catch, all right.

August 29, 2012

Island green at the World Am leaves top-flight players stranded

Posted at 6:38 PM by Gary Van Sickle

SUNSET BEACH, N.C. -- This was a serious mistake in planning. Instead of playing in the third round of the World Amateur Handicap Championship in Flight 1 here Wednesday, I should've set up a lawn chair, a cooler and a video camera at Oyster Bay's now-infamous 17th hole. Apparently, it was quite a show.

The 17th is an island-green par-3 hole. On its website, Oyster Bay brags about having not just one but two island-green par-3s. This seems similar to Quasimodo bragging about his second hump, but that's just my opinion.

This is what Pete Dye has wrought with his famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass -- poor imitations. If you're going to have an island green, it had better be a darned big island, and the hole had better not be overly long. Oyster Bay's 17th green is shaped almost like a triangle, with the skinniest point at the front of the green, facing the tee box. The pin was diabolically placed on the green's front edge (pretty much like the other 17 pins were diabolically placed on ledges, knobs, ridges and carnival rides). It's 165 yards to the middle of the green from the back tee. With the front pin location, our yardage today was 144 yards, but it was a very narrow target.

(By the way, the 15th is the other island par-3, and it's not truly an island. It's about two-thirds surrounded, from 9 o'clock counter-clockwise to 1 o'clock. It's also 210 yards. If you like modern golf architecture, and by that I mean island greens, greens with six-foot tiers and ledges, a fairway with a towering tree in the middle and a monster par 4 with two greens, then you will love Oyster Bay, designed by Dan Maples. The only missing design cliches were a double green, a hole with two fairways and a waterfall.)

Anyway, Oyster Bay's 17th proved to be a nightmare, at least from the stories I heard from a few of the finishers who congregated in the bar afterward to commiserate (and also to see if they cashed in on one enterprising competitor's daily skins game).

Here's how it was for our threesome. I'm withholding their names because, frankly, we're embarrassed enough as it is. The first guy up, who happens to live about 50 miles north of me in Meadville, Pa., played his usual hard draw but hit it a tad thin and splashed it in the pond just short of the green. Then I thinned a choked-down 7-iron toward the right edge, where thick Bermuda rough just over the collar grabbed it like a Venus flytrap, saving me from a watery finish, too.

Our third man, a congenial low-ball hitter from Houston, pulled his tee ball slightly. It drew, hit on the left edge of the bank and tumbled toward the oyster-shell-lined water hazard. We didn't see it splash, but the bank was pretty steep, and there was no sign of it when we approached the green.

So, my playing partners advanced to the drop zone. I saw right away that this was a bad idea. The drop zone, a forward tee box, was already badly mutilated with divots. Plus, it was a mere 52-yard shot to the front pin, which was on the narrowest strip of green from that angle. If they aimed left, toward the back-middle of the green, there was a bunker that could've served as a backstop. Otherwise, this 52-yard wedge shot from a tight lie, depending on the outcome of your drop, was one nasty shot. Meadville got his shot on the green where I would've aimed, toward that bunker, and left himself 30 feet. Houston chunked his first attempt. Splash! He retrieved another ball from his bag. He thinned a low one this time, and his ball took one bounce on the far side of the green -- near my ball -- and disappeared into the pond on the other side. That was three balls in the water.

On his next try, he got it on the fat part of the green, 20 feet away. After I nearly chipped in, making a tap-in par, Meadville left his first putt eight feet short. Then Houston, who joked about putting for an 8, left his first putt four feet short. Meadville missed, three-putting for a triple-bogey 6. Then Houston slammed home his next putt for a 9. Our group score smacked of a multiplication table: 3-6-9.

"That was a huge putt," I told him. "Huge."

"I know it," he said, "I didn't want to make a 10."

"Trust me," I said, "I'll bet you right now that you didn't make the only 9 here today. In fact, I guarantee there will be a higher score on this hole today than 9."

We finished the round. I had suffered an abysmal start, three-putting three of the first four holes. It wasn't all poor putting; it was also extreme (and I use that word to be polite) pin placements. I was seven over par after seven holes but played well the rest of the way, posting 79.

We hadn't been in the clubhouse more than a minute when a fellow competitor walked. "How'd you guys do on 17?," he asked. "I made a (bleeping) 15!"

I was going to go to find Houston to give him the good news. He was at the bar ordering a pair of Miller Lites. But before I even got started, another player came in and asked how we liked the pin at 17?

"Ten balls," he said.

What?

"Ten balls," he repeated. "I saw a guy ahead of us hit 10 balls in the water there today. We're not sure, but we estimate that he made a 24 on that hole."

I don't know which golfer it was, and if I did I certainly wouldn't taint his name by printing it here. I also don't have confirmation that it's true. But hey, in the clubhouse bar after a round, any unverified rumor like that is too good not to repeat.

I found Houston and his Lites on the other side of the room. I told him about the 15 first, then the alleged 24. You smoked some guy by 15 shots on that hole today, I said.

He popped the top on his second can and took a hefty swig. He was smiling.

August 28, 2012

Slogging and blogging at the World Am

Posted at 10:58 PM by Gary Van Sickle

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- It was a battle against the elements here in the second round of the World Amateur Handicap Championship. From what I saw, I'm declaring the elements the winner.

Heavy overnight rain, followed by more morning rain, delayed by an hour our 9:30 shotgun start at Wild Wing Plantation (renamed Wet Wing by more than one chagrined player). We got 10 holes in before another wave of showers hit. It was two hours of misery.

You know it's wet when you make a fist while wearing your rain glove and it wrings water like somebody turned on a faucet. Fortunately, the tournament officials were smart enough to put lift-clean-and-place rules in effect and move up some tees. Even in the championship flight, this was not a day to play from the way-way back.

When you're playing in the rain, you forget how far you can't hit it. It was a significant adjustment on club selection. With falling rain, and of course no roll, plus a little breeze, it was a two-club difference. At the par-3 17th, a 184-yard shot today, I normally would've hit 5-iron. But since rain was falling and my rain suit was wet (but I wasn't--thank you, ProQuip!), I'd already noticed how poorly the ball was carrying. I downshifted two clubs into a hybrid, choked up slightly and hit a nice shot pin-high. A guy in the group ahead of me--yes, they were still stacked up on the tee when we arrived--hit a sweet long-iron shot that kicked in close and looked like it might go in.

He expressed disappointment that it didn't find the cup for an ace, but then said he'd just had a hole-in-one a week ago. "Then you weren't due," I said. I bumped into him in the bar after the round and he said that shot was a leaner--his ball was actually leaning over the edge of the cup. "Nice," I said. "So, did you make the putt?"

I woke up with a really sore left Achilles tendon. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to play. And since it was raining early, I didn't bother warming up on the range. Don't get wet until you have to -- that's my theory. It caused me to lose some shots to the right early because I was loathe to finish on the left side, and then I over-adjusted and started yanking the occasional shot. By the end of the round, it felt better, so maybe I won't be too hobbled for the last two rounds.

All in all, I played solidly, hit a lot of greens in regulation, and was even par until the rain began. With three holes left in the round, I teed off on the 18th. We were drenched by then and my grip slipped just a bit, causing me to snipe-hook my tee shot into a diagonal lake in front of the fairway. It really shouldn't have been in play but bad shots happen in bad weather. I made a triple bogey there, parred the last two and posted 76. Nothing special, but by late in the round, all we wanted was to be done.

Other things I heard today:

- During the pre-round instructions and send off as we waited in carts, the club official announced there were only three holes with out of bounds in play at Wild Wing. "Thank god!" a voice from one of the carts said loudly, sparking uproarious laughter.

- Also before the round, a weathered older gentleman carrying a small cooler was headed into the bar area when he ran into a friend. "I'm going to get some beer," he told his pal. It was 9 a.m. The friend replied, "I wish you hadn't said that." The man with the cooler was undeterred. "Beer, don't leave home without it!" he said.

- During our round, one of us hit a shot that landed in a fairway puddle, and someone in the group said, "It's OK, I saw it splash." There's something you almost never hear during a round of golf.

- Wet Wing's Avocet Course was fairly pleasant to play, not counting the rain. Lots of big bunkers and big greens. I remember early last decade when Wild Wing was a hot spot to play in Myrtle Beach. It had four courses, I believe, and earned a lot of rave reviews. Now only one is still in operation. You could see some of the overgrown holes on the other courses here and there, apparently victims of the recession.

- One last nugget overheard in the dining area pre-round, where free donuts, juice and coffee were set up for World Am participants. Said one grinning, pudgy golfer, "When they're free, I try to stop at three." Yeah, I think that's the golf writer's motto, too.

It caused me to lose some shots to the right early because I was loathe to finish on the left side, and then I over-adjusted and started yanking the occasional shot. By the end of the round, it felt better, so maybe I won't be too hobbled for the last two rounds.





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