This from Chris King of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday on John Ponter of Baden, Pa.:
There is an old saying that timing is everything in life and at least one Myrtle Beach golfer isn’t likely to argue.
At 7:30 a.m. on March 19, John Ponter and the three friends he had traveled to Myrtle Beach with called Oyster Bay, one of the area’s most popular courses, in search of an unlikely tee time.
"We had a cancellation in the morning and they called like five minutes later and got an 8:20 tee time,” said Brian Altena, Oyster Bay’s first assistant. But fate was just beginning to smile on Ponter.
Eighteen holes later, Ponter, who plays a “couple times a year,” had completed one of golf’s rarest feats – making two holes in one in a single round. How rare was Ponter’s accomplishment? The odds are 67 million to 1, according to one source.
“My reaction was disbelief,” said Ponter, who had never seen an ace, much less recorded his own, heading into the round. The Baden, Pa., native started on the 10th hole and recorded his first hole-in-one playing from the white tees on the 15th hole (his sixth of the day).
“It’s an island green and we calculated it at 109 yards to the pin,” Ponter said. “I hadn’t been hitting it well all week, so I hit a nine iron because the wind was picking up and I didn’t want to leave it in the water.”
The shot bounced a couple times and rolled in the cup in plain view of the entire group, setting off the first round of euphoria.
After the required jokes about doing it again, Ponter stepped onto the sixth tee box (his 15th hole) and did the nearly impossible. “It was an uphill shot but you could see the bottom of the pin,” said Jerry Heinz, one of Ponter’s playing partners. “He hit the ball and it was heading right for the pin but when it went in none of us could believe it.”
The pair of aces fell in the middle of a week-long trip to Myrtle Beach that included nine rounds of golf, more swings than Ponter cares to recount, and a story he will never tire of retelling. The 53-year-old not surprisingly recorded his best round at Oyster Bay - an 89 that included those two aces.
According to Heinz, Ponter’s game is best not evaluated by score alone. “He doesn’t play a lot of golf but he is really a great athlete,” Heinz said. “He could cut his handicap in half (if he played more).”
But that’s irrelevant to Ponter, who celebrated by playing an additional 18 holes that afternoon at Thistle, having a couple drinks with his buddies, and playing 36 more the following day.
True Blue Golf Plantation, one of America’s top 100 public courses as ranked by Golf Digest, is giving away a two-night, three-round golf vacation through Facebook.
Golfers can visit and like True Blue’s Facebook page. Once the page reaches 1,500 likes, a random drawing will be held to determine the winner of the vacation package.
The prize includes a two-night stay at the True Blue Resort Villas and three rounds of golf at True Blue Golf Plantation and its sister course, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, for four golfers. The vacation has a retail value of $3,000. Those interested can visit the following websites for more information:
http://www.truebluegolfplantation.com/, http://www.fishclub.com/, http://www.caledoniagolfvacations.com/
Myrtle Beach not only receives attention for its golf courses, but it also gets a bit of pub for its miniature golf courses.
The RealSimple.com website lists Hawaiian Rumble in North Myrtle Beach as one of summer’s “10 Superlative Family Vacation Destination Ideas.”
It says Hawaiian Rumble is the Most Rockin’ Mini-Golf location, and sites a 40-foot volcano that erupts every 20 minutes and greens that have been re-covered with the same top-of-the-line carpet that Ernie Els and other pros use for their own practice greens.
Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday has extended the discounted early entry deadline for the 28th annual GOLF.com World Amateur Handicap Championship to June 21.
First-time players registering before the deadline save $50 off the $550 entry fee and returning players pay $450. The World Am will be held on more than 60 Myrtle Beach area golf courses Aug. 29 through Sept. 2.
The importance of golf in the Carolinas got some recognition recently with the declaration by North Carolina governor Beverly Purdue of April 27 as “North Carolina Golf Day” in recognition of the golf industry's significant impact to the state's economy, along with the game's environmental responsibility and social benefits.
According to the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association, there are more than 550 golf courses in North Carolina, accounting for more than 70,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of $5.3 billion.
The Tar Heel state features both the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte and the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, and has some professional majors coming up. The PGA of America announced this year that the 2017 PGA Championship will be staged at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, and the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open will be held in consecutive weeks for the first time in USGA history in 2014 on the Pinehurst Resort No. 2 course.
Next year’s PGA Championship will be held at Kiawah Island Resort’s Ocean Course, marking the first time one of golf’s major championships will be held in South Carolina.
National Golf Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Beditz came to Myrtle Beach on Tuesday to present the findings of a study commissioned by Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday.
While the audience consisting primarily of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday members was most interested in hearing about how the Grand strand stacks up against competing golf destinations and how efficient the area is at converting leads into customers, Beditz also delivered news about the state of golf nationally.
The good news is rounds are up 5 percent nationally in 2009 compared to 2008, but comparisons to 2000 reflect the same issues nationally that are being combated on the Grand Strand.
Rounds played last year are down nearly 6 percent compared to 2000 to 489.1 million. Since 2000, rounds per course are down 8.5 percent for an average of 33,243.
Perhaps most disturbing, core golfers who play eight or more rounds per year are down 16 percent since 2000 to 16.6 million, while occasional golfers playing less than eight rounds have remained relatively steady at about 12 million.
Helping existing course owners is the continued closing of layouts across the country to help correct an overabundance. The number of courses nationally peaked in 2005 following a building boom at around 16,000. But there will be a projected 145 closings in 2009 compared to just 55 new courses for a fourth consecutive year of net declines.
The NGF estimates, based on courses self-reporting, that 10 to 15 percent of the nearly 16,000 courses are at-risk financially. Courses closing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. More than 500 have closed in the past four years. But when private clubs struggle they sometimes convert to public status, thereby taking a piece of the available rounds. About 400 have become public in the past 10 years.
Though rounds are up nationally according to NGF statistics, the recession has kept golfers closer to home and hurt golf destinations such as Myrtle Beach. The NGF study showed the number of golf vacations are down 26 percent from golfers in regions that include the entire East Coast, Gulf Coast, Midwest and Southwest. Asked if the current economy has affected their golf travel, 52 percent in those areas said it has had no impact, 34 percent are taking fewer trips, 22 percent are spending less on trips, and 2 percent said the economy has had a positive impact on their travels.
“It’s the worst overall golf market since the depression,” Beditz said, “. . . yet the golf industry is stable and recovering. We’ve seen the worst of it and we’re improving. We’re holding golfers and we’re holding rounds: that’s a positive. The market is under as much pressure as it’s ever been and it’s holding up.”
The 100-plus golf courses on the Grand Strand can't be encouraged by recent research findings by the National Golf Foundation regarding the number of golfers in the U.S. in 2008. With play down an estimated 20-25 percent compared to 2008 along the Strand this year, it doesn't look like there are any more golfers to fill the lost rounds.
Golfer participation numbers continued their slight decline last year, falling 3 percent from 29.5 million in 2007 to 28.6 million in 2008, according to the NGF's annual golf participation study. The study defines a golfer as a person age 6 or above who plays at least one round of golf in a given year, and was conducted by Synovate, a Chicago-based market research firm, which looked at 42,000 Americans for the study.
Both the ``Core'' and ``Occasional'' golfer categories dipped. Core golfers dropped 4.5 percent, from 17.3 million to 16.6 million, while Occasional golfers dropped 1.5 percent, from 12.2 million to 12.0 million. The survey also reported that 4 million golfers either tried the game for the first time (1.7 million) or came back to the game after being away for a while (2.3 million.) However, there were 4.9 million ``lost golfers'' who played in 2007 but not last year.
Beatryce Shaw learned to play golf in order to keep her husband company. He became an avid golfer after first playing in his 40s and retired in Conway so he could play year-round. When he died in 2006 at the age of 79 after battling cancer, she had a memorial outing at Conway Golf Club, during which many of those who regularly played golf with him took a ball out of Shaw's golf bag and tried to hit the green from a par-3 tee box.
Since his passing, Beatryce has decided to continue in the game on another level by trying to forge a small business in the game. She has moved from a large home in Conway to Marion County, and is attempting to start a golf package business out of an apartment building she owns in Marion that consists of four two-bedroom suites. Beatryce said she has spoken to people at courses in the Florence/Marion/Dillon area including Oakdale Country Club, The Traces, Dusty Hills Country Club, Pineland Country Club, The Crossing Golf Club and Beaver Creek Golf Club to set up affordable rates. She's set up a rough Web site. ``I'm trying to be the Johnny Appleseed of golf,'' Beatryce Shaw said. ``Golf as far as I'm concerned is the best thing to happen to me. It's good exercise, you meet people and it's challenging. . . . I get all excited about the game of golf.''
The new and still evolving policy of many airlines to charge passengers for checked baggage could give the Grand Strand another obstacle to overcome in attempts to attract visiting golfers. Some airlines charge for the first bag checked, others for the second and subsequent bags, and the costs can be exhorbitant. In a trip in July to visit family and friends in Maine, I chose not to pay the $50 it was going to cost me to bring my golf clubs and instead borrowed a freind's clubs for a pair of nine-hole rounds.
If courses take a look to the present and near future, they may want to start adding to their inventory of rental clubs. It will allow them to be prepared for the possible increase in requests and provide a new means of revenue.