Leading up to my first trip to the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
Having not played very much competitive golf but still very close to the game through my duties here at amateurgolf.com, I feel like I was in a unique position. As both a first-time participant and an objective and partial member of the media, I was looking to be impressed with the 3,000-plus player event spread over four days (five if you're lucky) across Myrtle Beach's Grand Strand.
Well, color me impressed.
With some time to digest the four-day stay in Myrtle Beach --- and my less-than-stellar play --- I'm already looking forward to next year's event.
The great piece to the World Amateur puzzle, both in my opinion, as well as many of the players I was paired with during the week, is that you get to play four quality courses. With the large number of courses needed to host 3,000 players each day, a tip of the cap goes to Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday and the World Amateur for not only managing this enormous undertaking but handling well any disturbances caused by weather --- of which there were plenty.
I was in Flight 4 and had the terrific opportunity to play four great courses. On Day 1, we took over Black Bear Golf Club in North Myrtle Beach. The 6,787 yard track played even tougher with the wet weather that rolled in midway through the round and stayed nearly the entire week.
Either way, wet or dry, Monday at the World Amateur was a great day to get my feet wet (pun most certainly intended) into what play would be like the rest of the trip.
On Tuesday, more wet weather was forecast but we began play at Willbrook Plantation Golf Club in Pawley's Island. Fortunately, this was the course I found my swing at and was amidst a solid round. Unfortunately, that solid round was moot as the horns blew after eight holes and we were called into the proshop. The weather, which was ultimately the backend of Hurricane Isaac, simply drenched the area and our flight was one of 14 on Day 2 that didn't complete their rounds.
On Day 3, we went to the challenging Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation. With enough bunkers and water for even the most daring of players, Avocet ate me alive despite hitting some great shots. With Day 2 scores wiped from the leaderboard, Wednesday's round at Wild Wing proved to be impactful for Flight 4 as it became known as 'moving day'.
On Thursday, we hit the links at Heather Glen in Little River, SC. The 400-acre track was Golf Digest's 'Best New Public Course in America' in 1987 and has also been ranked among the Top 50 Public Courses in America, Top 5 in South Carolina and 'Places to Play' by Golf Digest in the years since.
With the best weather of the week to boot, the 6,822-yard layout more than lived up to expectations. The conditions were still wet from the week's worth of rain it endured, but Heather Glen was terrific. I was proud to leave with a bit of pride, too, as I put together my best round of the week.
I was fortunate to be in a flight that played four different top-notch courses but, again, talking with other participants in different flights, that seems to be the theme with the World Amateur. Regardless of flight number, you're bound to play four terrific courses at the World Am.
The World Amateur experience, of course, doesn't stop on No. 18. Host of the world's largest 19th hole, the World Amateur took over the Sheraton Convention Center in downtown Myrtle Beach. For the first four nights of the event, World Am participants and guests were treated to dinner, drinks, dessert and much more. It was a great opportunity for friends --- old, and those you met only hours earlier on the course --- to get together and chat about the day's round.
From a player's standpoint, the World Amateur gets it all right. Being a net event --- with more than 3,000 participants, no less --- there's bound to be at least some attempts at sandbagging. The World Am, however, has plenty of processes in place to ensure all handicaps are fair and representative of the player's holding them. The tournament committee verifies all handicaps prior to the event and remains diligent throughout the event to ensure all flights are fair and even, given the shots they're each getting.
All told, my first trip to the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship was a blast. While I sure wished I could have played better, I was more than satisfied with the event and am already looking forward to the trip next year.
What were your thoughts? Did you enjoy your trip to the World Amateur last month? Haven't played yet? Feel free to ask questions about the event and I'll be sure to answer.