By Len Ziehm

Having about 100 courses, an oceanside setting and tons of lodging and dining options made Myrtle Beach a popular place for golfers to visit. It wasn’t good enough for the PGA Tour, however – at least not until this year.

Golf’s premier circuit brought its first-ever tournament to the stunning Dunes Golf & Beach Club in May. Even without a great field the Myrtle Beach Classic received a warm welcome that encouraged city leaders.

“This high-profile sporting event not only enhances our area’s reputation as The Golf Capital of the World, but also reinforces the strong community spirit that defines the Grand Strand,’’ said Karen Riordan, president and chief executive officer of Visit Myrtle Beach. She called the inaugural playing of the event “a standout success.’’

Tournament director Darren Nelson reported that over 1,300 volunteers turned out to get the Classic off to a good start.

“With the continued dedication and support from the Myrtle Beach community the event is poised to continue to grow and evolve, further spotlighting the Grand Strand as a premier destination for golf and recreation,’’ said Nelson.

The tourney reported over 40,000 spectators attended the pro-am and four tournament rounds and claimed that the 15,281 ticketholders for Saturday’s third round was 5,000 more than expected. TV coverage on The Golf Channel was also helpful.

Oh, yes.  The golf was good, too.  Chris Gotterup, an up-and-coming 24-year old, was 22 under par en route to winning by six strokes on a course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1948. Another young hotshot, Thorbjern Oleson, set a course record with a 10-under 61.

Vanna White, a mainstay on TV’s Wheel of Fortune and a North Myrtle Beach resident, played in the pro-am and said what many were thinking about the only new tournament on the PGA Tour in 2024.

“We relate Myrtle Beach to golf, and it’s been that way for a long time,’’ she said.  “It’s  time the PGA Tour came here.’’

No argument there, and the area’s biggest tournament – the 41st annual World Amateur Handicap Championship – is still to come, along with a myriad of other events that have been annual attractions in Myrtle Beach.  The World Amateur will bring bring over 3,000 players to Myrtle Beach from Aug. 26-30. It’s the world’s biggest golf tournament and this two-time participant has fond memories of the experience. More