Myrtle Beach World Am: A player's journey back to competition
Kent Paisley returned to competition after a 7 1/2 year break
Kent Paisley returned to competition after a 7 1/2 year break

After the second round of my first tournament in seven-and-a-half years away from competitive play on Tuesday, I was tied with the first-round leader.

It's symbolic of the topsy-turvy play so far through two rounds of the Myrtle Beach World Amateur, where the quirky style of playing four different courses in four days can lead to wild movements in the leaderboard. However, the most consistent factor is the players' passion for the tournament. The camaraderie permeates throughout the range, as one sees someone catching up with another like old friends as they've played the 39-year-old tournament seven or more times together.

In the gross division, Davis Edward leads the gross flight following rounds at Long Bay Golf Club and Sea Trails Plantation’s Jones course.

Playing to win, while inherently a part of any competition, wasn't my biggest goal this week. I'm just trying to enjoy the return to competitive play. My biggest victory is the compliment I received during my first visit to the 19th hole.

"You are the only person who talked positively about their round to me today," Oneda Castillo, recipient of the lifetime achievement award from President Barack Obama in 2015, and motivational speaker Tuesday at the 19th hole during Ladies' Night told me Monday.

Any other article you might read about a 77 on AmateurGolf.com isn’t likely coming from a positive light. But my 5-over effort is one of the rounds I’m most proud of in my life, even as a previously scratch player.

Travel nightmares inform why. After major flight delays caused me to miss my connection to Myrtle Beach the day before the tournament, I ended up driving three-and-a-half hours from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach, picking up my golf clubs at Myrtle Beach International at 4:05 am. With an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start, I ended up stealing a half-an-hour nap before heading out to warm up.

Compounding the challenge were the greens -- the grain and speed were much different than I am used to in California. With little time to practice and adjust, the best part of my game took a major hit, and my scores showed it. I opened with a bogey, knocking home a nervy four-footer, then went birdie-birdie. I tried my darndest to miss an inside one-foot tap in on the second, with a rain of nervous energy pulsating throughout my hands. But as I settled down it was clear that my return to competition wasn't going to be as bad as I feared.

I made one more birdie for the round on the par-3 17th, hitting a 185-yard six-iron to inside three feet. I followed through on my biggest two goals for the day -- even as my energy waned down the stretch -- no three putts and no double bogeys.

I did not meet these goals in the second and third rounds. I had a four-putt at Sea Trails Jones Course and hit the ball into the water three times at Arcadian Shores. But I never gave up. My playing partner and PGA Tour Live commentator Brian Katrek noted during our round together at Sea Trails that I had "powerful self-talk."

As a result, the scores remain consistent: 77, 81, and 82, sitting in 21st place with 18 to go. If I were near the top three, I'd have a chance to be part of the final 18 on Friday, but that's not in the cards at this point.

The 19th hole, held at the convention center each night, hosts so many activities I couldn't possibly do them all in a single night. From virtual simulators to golf product booths such as Cobalt and Strackaline, it's a ton to take in. Guest speakers each got time to shine on the main stage, including the first-ever Ladies' Night.

I really enjoyed the competition and the diverse group of players I was paired with each day. All of my playing groups shared a ton of laughs, with everyone embracing me as "The Myrtle Beach World Am rookie" and making the tournament as fun for me as possible. I'm happy to have found my way back into the arena after such a long break. Competing in Myrtle Beach has reminded me that competitive amateur golf is much more than a number of a scorecard.

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ABOUT THE Myrtle Beach World Amateur

"The largest amateur golf tournament in the world" now has 4 gross divisions. The event attracts 3500 players annually. Barefoot Resort is just one of over 40 of Myrtle Beach area’s championship courses on which this tournament is contested. The winner of each flight competes on the fifth day for the overall title.

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