PGA Professional National Championship picks Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach and its Waterloo 13th
The PGA of America made a great pick for its 2014 PGA Professional National Championship, announcing today that The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., will serve as the primary host course. It will be joined by the Grande Dunes Resort Club as co-host of the 47th PGA Professional National Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA, June 22-25, 2014. And while both are good, The Dunes Club has a storied history and one of the best and truest par 5s in the country.
This is the national championship, by the way, for the PGA club professionals around the country, and the quality of golf is pretty good. The top 25 will go on to play in the PGA Championship, one of golf’s four majors. But first, they will have to navigate these two courses, including The Dunes Club, which was the site of the Senior Tour Championship from 1994-1999. It was also the course that hosted the finals of the 1973 PGA Tour Qualifying School that yielded such golfers as Ben Crenshaw, Gary McCord and Gil Morgan. And closer to home for me, it was the host course for the final round of the Golf Writers Association of America Championship from 1954-2005.
I played in the GWAA Championship for many years with little success. In fact, my only goal was not to embarrass myself, and then I had one of those magical moments every golfer dreams about in 2000.
This was the first time we had forecaddies, a real luxury for a blue collar golfer like me. I didn’t get off to a particularly good start, shooting 42 on the front of this classic 1948 Robert Trent Jones-designed classic. For good measure, I even bogeyed the tough 10th hole to go to 7-over-par, seemingly, once again, out of position for a respectable finish. But then I got to the incredibly difficult 590-yard par-5 13th.
Dubbed “Waterloo,” the 13th is almost impossible to hit in two shots. That’s because it wraps around Lake Singleton to the right. The green is on the other side of the lake, protected by trees and water, and you really can’t get much closer (as the crow flies) to it on your tee shot, no matter how far you hit it. A longer tee shot simply makes your layup a little easier around the lake. Most important however, is to hug the shoreline on the tee shot without going in the water. Anything left is also terrible, possibly in the woods and much farther from the green, turning the hole into a par 6.
I actually hit an iron off the tee and kept it close to the shoreline. Then, with nothing to lose, hit the longest 3-wood of my life, biting off as much as I could chew, left of the green, barely carrying the water. Two yards to the right, and it would have been wet. Instead, I had 68 yards to the hole.
The caddie was already on the green when I hit the shot heard ’round the GWAA, a sand wedge that landed just past the hole and spun back into the cup for an eagle 3. The caddie was jumping up and down, and my playing companions went nuts. I was thrilled, of course, but didn’t understand the magnitude of what had happened until I turned in my scorecard. As I was walking away from the scorer’s table, the official called me back. “You eagled the 13th?” he asked. “Yep,” I replied.
From there, I told the story over and over again, all night. I even got a plaque for it. Apparently, it had never been done in the 50-year history of our tournament, and I’m told the seniors never did it either. The eagle propelled me to a back nine 34, good enough for a second-place finish that year.
We used to give an award out each year to the competitor who made the highest number without hitting a ball in the water on 13. Back then, I think a score of 17 was the record. In fact, I’m only aware of one player who has hit the green in two – Mike Souchak in the early 1960s. And many players have emptied their bag trying to reach the green in two.
Now with a big event coming, The Dunes Club, ranked among America’s top 100 public courses by both Golf Digest and Golfweek, will get a refresher from RTJ’s son, Rees Jones, before the PGA Professional National Championship. One of the changes will be converting the bentgrass greens to Champion Bermuda, which will eliminate the need for fans (the blowing kind) in the summer and make the course more playable. What it won’t do, I’m sure, is make the 13th any easier. And it’ll be fun to see how the country’s top club pros score on it.
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