Bill Watson has played in the World Amateur Handicap Championship more than 20 times and never won a thing.
Not a flight, a closest to the pin contest, or a giveaway. Nothing.
So, naturally, when the Floridian heard his name called as the winner of the Dream Myrtle Beach Golf Vacation at last year’s World Am, he was equal parts shocked and ecstatic. Upon returning home, Watson selected three friends to accompany him on the trip – Joe Gonia, Mike Stine and Jeff Zellers, all of whom have played in the World Am – and the quartet was looking forward to the six-night, six-round dream trip.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Originally scheduled for April, Watson’s trip was pushed back to mid-June. The golf course lineup – Caledonia, Love Course at Barefoot, Dunes Club, Tidewater, Prestwick and True Blue – was outstanding, but the weather forecast as the trip approached was not.
Rain was in the forecast every day. Watson’s dream trip seemed destined to be a Mother Nature-induced disappointment.
“There is nothing you could do about it,” Watson said of the weather. “So you just roll with the punches.”
His faith was rewarded. The gloomy forecast turned out far better than the group could’ve imagined – mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s in June.
“We had a blast,” Watson said. “We really hit it lucky and everything went off without a hitch. We had a good time playing great courses.”
“Playing a golf course lineup that would make anyone envious, the trip was highlighted by the greens at Prestwick, which Watson thought were as good as any he has ever putted on, and Gonia holing out for birdie from a cavernous bunker on the unforgettable, par 3 third hole at Tidewater.
Speaking of Tidewater, Watson hit the first tee shot at the acclaimed course when it opened in 1990, so his return to the course was certainly a high point.
We happened to be in Myrtle Beach (in 1990) and my buddy said, ‘Hey this new golf course called Tidewater is opening tomorrow,’” Watson said. “We called them and the guy said come on out and you can play. We cancelled our tee time where we were supposed to play and went to Tidewater. I actually hit the first ball there the morning they opened at Tidewater. To return to that place and see what it has become … it’s just beautiful and it’s in great shape.”
Watson and his buddies had concerns about flying given the presence of COVID-19, but they wore masks and enjoyed comfortable flights. Once they were in Myrtle Beach, they continued to take reasonable precautions. “We all wore masks everywhere we went,” said Watson, who shared the $400 gift card he received from PGA Tour Superstore with his buddies. “We felt pretty safe about it.”
Watson remained positive when the trip was postponed, optimistic when the weather forecast was bleak, and appropriately cautious in the face of a pandemic, and he was rewarded with a trip he won’t forget.
“Other than my wife and kids, this is the best thing that has happened to me as far as winning something,” said Watson, who is registered for the 2020 World Am.