It’s only fitting the “golf buddy trip” capital of the world would host an annual event where camaraderie is paramount. That’s exactly the case in Myrtle Beach this week as the 29th Annual GOLF.com World Amateur Handicap Championship began play on Monday.
Of course the 3,100 players hailing from South Carolina to China (49 states and 25 countries are represented) will be doing their utmost to hold the championship trophy at the conclusion of the four-day event, but in talking with participants it’s immediately evident there are more ways to win than having the lowest score.
At a pre-tournament reception honoring players who’ve played in all 29 tournaments held at Greg Norman’s Australian Grille overlooking the Intercostal Waterway, friendship was continually brought up when longtime World Am entrants were asked why they entered year after year.
“This event is an ideal place to come to and meet new friends,” said amicable Paul Ciancanelli from DeMotte, Ind. “Plus I love the game and it’s a real 72-hole tournament like the pros.”
Fellow 29-year alumni Don Yelton of Shelby, N.C. said, “It’s great to see everyone again every year and catch up on how they’re doing.”
He added with a wry smile, “I’m going to win this year, but I’ve been saying that for 29 straight years.”
“It’s wonderful seeing old friends come back to Myrtle Beach for the tournament,” said Fred Pugh, a 71-year-old marketing exec from Columbia, S.C. “I’m going to keep playing even if it has to be in a wheelchair or on a gurney.”
Even those starting new World Am streaks value the people aspect of the annual Grand Strand tournament. Richmond, Virginia’s 35-year-old Jeremy Horn said just before starting his Monday round on verdant River Club Golf Course in the South Strand, “This is my straight third year and it’s really an enjoyable experience. It’s all about good people. Plus I love Myrtle Beach.”
With 72 holes of golf and an additional championship 18 for division winners to be played through Friday on more than 50 Grand Stand layouts, there’s little doubt a multitude of new friendships will be made and many old ones rekindled. Isn’t that what golf is all about?