What it's really like playing the world's biggest amateur tourney
Editor's Note:
AmateurGolf.com has been partnered with the Myrtle Beach World Amateur for almost 15 years, providing them with hundreds (if not thousands) of registered players and helping the world's largest amateur golf tournament launch scratch divisions several years ago. AG founder Pete Wlodkowski played in the first one of those scratch divisions, and later Kyle Rector tied for first as the division grew stronger. Kent Paisley played in the Men's Under-49 scratch division this year, along with one of our equipment panelists, Ed Donlin of Concord, North Carolina. Donlin never met a tournament he didn't like -- so we asked him to go in knowing nothing and come away telling us everything. Following are his thoughts on the week in Myrtle Beach.

by Ed Donlin, for AmateurGolf.com

For the past 5-10 years, I've been a part of the AmateurGolf.com Equipment Panel. In addition to that, I've sent some "field reports" from the tournaments I play in around the country -- usually, they involve the legend Paul Simson doing something legendary while I finish behind him, happy I came close. I am retired, 68 years old, live in North Carolina, normally walk 18 holes Monday thru Friday, and play in about 12 to 15 scratch tournaments a year. I spent a lovely late August week at the Myrtle Beach World Amateur. Please allow me to tell you about it.


Before the tournament even started, I ran into Mike Bivins, who is the chairman of the National Senior Hall of Fame golf tournament in High Point, North Carolina each year. Mike loves this event – he includes the World Am on his golf calendar every year. And he’s not alone – I saw a lot of players greeting each as if it was a yearly class reunion. Two of the guys I played with have played years in the same scratch divisions. Being in the 60+ division, our group of retirees included a computer programmer from North Carolina, a home builder from Nebraska, an air traffic controller from Tennessee, and a federal government employee from Maryland.


I represented AG in style this week
One of the great experiences of this event is meeting new people. What I didn't count on was that the tournament would help me connect with a guy I played golf with regularly many years ago! After the first round, while putting my clubs in the car and pondering my second three-putt, I heard a voice that I had not heard in years calling my name. Lo and behold, it was an old golf buddy from upstate New York that I played with a few times a week 40 years ago before I moved to North Carolina. He relocated to the Myrtle Beach area nine years ago and saw my name listed on the tournament roster. He decided to come out to surprise me and to catch up on our families. It really made my week.

I am now going to refer to one of the great movie and television shows of all time. When you meet a guy with a TV character’s name, it's one thing. But how about when they have the same occupation as that character? For those of you that do remember the military comedy “M*A*S*H”, you’ll know the bumbling doctor named Frank Burns. I got paired with a real-life physician (and fine golfer) with the same name. I waited until our 17th hole before I mentioned the reference. “Ok, Frank – how many times do you get asked about the coincidence with your name?” (A lot was his answer). Then he paused and said, “They always ask me how Hot Lips Houlihan is doing.” He also tells inquisitive patients that he is a much better physician than the other Frank Burns. If you remember the show, you'll know it's a good thing.


The 19th Hole at the World Amateur is amazing. It is open each night from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm for all competitors and a guest at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. It’s an adult playground where there is literally something for everyone. All food and drink is free (including adult beverages). The food is provided by 10 local restaurants found at food stations placed strategically around the facility with a different theme each night.

You can't bogey the 19th hole

After filling your belly, there are plenty of vendors displaying various golf-related items. You can play corn hole, shoot pool, toss darts, practice putting, test your swing on launch monitors, and even try virtual reality golf. And how about this – there’s even a place where you can hook up to an IV to replenish your fluids after a long day in the South Carolina heat. Entertainment starts with live music each night in an adjacent ballroom. For those that can’t get enough golf talk, there is a stage set up in the main room where they have live Q&A with different speakers. The first night was Charlie Rymer and Chantel McCabe from the Golf Channel as well as Brian Katrick and John Maginnes from SirrusXM PGA Tour Radio. Tuesday night was ladies' night at the 19th Hole, and there were a number of female speakers from the golf business. I've never experienced anything like it at an amateur golf tournament.


The author and spouse at Hole No. 19
How do I describe my experience in Myrtle Beach this week? If you took a club championship and a member-guest and combined them into one event, it would pretty much describe the vibe at the Myrtle Beach World Amateur. You don’t have to be a scratch player or tournament veteran. As a matter of fact, If you would just like to get your feet wet in competitive golf, this is the perfect event for you. They have flights for everyone; players are grouped by gender, age, and handicap so you will be playing against people of similar ability. Want to take the pressure completely off? The World Am even has a “Just for Fun” flight where you don’t even turn in a score. Some players use this for a guy’s or gals golf trip or part of a family vacation with many of them coming back every year to play. I played with one guy this week that has played in it for 20-straight years!

The group that manages the event -- Golf Tournament Solutions -- runs it like clockwork. From registration -- imagine checking in over 3000 players -- to getting all the scorecards and cart signs to each golf course for 60-plus flights each day, to collecting all the scorecards and entering them into the website, and running the 19th hole, it amazes me how efficient everything runs. Just for entering you get some really nice tournament gifts, plus four rounds of golf, free food and drinks for you and a guest, nightly music and entertainment, and other games and contests each night at the convention center. I thoroughly enjoyed my week.


The Book by StrackaLine
OK, now that I've told you how much fun the tournament is and how they even have a flight where you don't have to turn in a score, you may wonder how seriously I took the event and how well I played.

I spent a couple of days before the event laying out on the beach relaxing and got off to a slow start in the first round. But once I got settled into a 72-hole tournament, I plotted my way around unfamiliar courses using tools like the AG-provided StrackaLine greens and course guides -- I really like the yardage books for tee shots, layup shots, and approach shots -- and shot 80-73-76-73 to finish in the money, at 5th in the 60 and over Scratch division.

Thanks to the folks at StrackaLine for overnighting me "The Book" for each course! I've linked to the member benefits section above, where AG members save 20% on StrackaLine greens reading and yardage guides.

I had a blast this week playing and writing about the World Amateur -- thanks for following along.

View results for Myrtle Beach World Amateur
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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