MYRTLE BEACH, S.C -- With 120 some odd courses and a social and economic fabric dedicated to the game of golf, it is easy to see why Myrtle Beach was once dubbed the "Golf Capital of the World." What some folks don't realize is the area's dedication to the game goes beyond beer soaked recreational rounds and evening entertainment.
Myrtle Beach hosts a handful of meaningful charity and amateur tournaments, none of which has more national appeal and local impact than the Dupont Coolmax World Amateur Championship. In two weeks, more than 4,000 golfers from 50 states and 30 countries will tee it up on 80 Grand Strand courses to determine the amateur champion of the world. Over four days, participants will play four different courses. On the fifth day, a champion is crowned at the Tournament Player's Club of Myrtle Beach.
But to say there's one winner when the 20th edition of the Dupont hits town next week is a major oversight. More than 4,000 people who love the game so much they are willing to travel hundreds, even thousands of miles for the good times at the World's Largest 19th Hole. They win. The Grand Strand residents and businesses are flooded with golfers with disposable income. They win.
It wasn't always this way.
It started back in 1982 when Paul Himmelsbach and Marvin Arnsdorff met for lunch at Antoine's at Tower Place in Atlanta. Himmelsbach, a Myrtle Beach-based magazine publisher, and Arnsdorff, a Golf Digest advertising and sales manager, were discussing ways to bring more tourists to the beach during the slow week leading up to Labor Day weekend.
On a cocktail napkin (isn't it always a cocktail napkin) the two gentlemen sketched their plan for an international amateur event that would be as enjoyable as it was competitive. Thus the World's Largest 19 Hole. Arnsdorff and Himmelsbach proposed that the Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau be transformed into the Strand's largest ad hoc buffet and watering hole.
In 1983, using their magazine connections, the duo had the "World Amateur" announced on the pages of Golf Digest and Himmelsbach's regional glossy, On the Green Magazine. By 1984, 684 ready and willing participants from three Canadian provinces and four foreign countries had signed on the dotted line for a week of golf, food, and drink.
The first tournament was an unqualified success, and the event's popularity soared off of the charts. The number of entrants nearly doubled to 1,187 the following year and golfers from around the world caught wind of the event. Case in point: a South African ostrich rancher won the new car giveaway that year, but due to obvious logistical issues, opted for a $5,000 payout instead.
With word of the tournament's popularity spreading like Poa Anna, the World Amateur entered a partnership with DuPont in 1986. DuPont took over title sponsorship of the World Amateur and has since become synonymous with the tournament.
Alas, the DuPont Coolmax World Amateur Handicap Championship celebrated its fifth anniversary in 1988 with 2,181 participants. That tournament also saw the introduction of the Flight Winner's Playoff, which brought all flight winners together to crown the "World Champion."
The event's popularity kept ascending and tournament organizers continued to make improvements that made the experience more enjoyable and efficient for players. In 1992, the World Amateur was extended from 54 holes to 72, making its playing conditions identical to those on the PGA Tour.
The tournament celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1993 with a record 3,532 entrants and the introduction of the first Super Senior Division for golfers 65 and older. Recognition of the event continued to grow when it was named the "Outstanding Tourism Event" in the state by the South Carolina Governor's Conference in 1993 and 1994.
The World Amateur experienced two historic firsts in 1997. The event enjoyed a record 4,414 participants, marking the first time the tournament surpassed the 4,000-player plateau, and a woman was crowned World Champion. Rhonda Oeters, a 34-handicap from Greenville, S.C., bested the field in the Flight Winners Playoff at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club to capture the title. (Note: Oeters' 34-handicap remains the highest by any "World Champion," proving you don't necessarily have to have "game" to take home the trophy.)
The loyalty and dedication of the tournament's participants was never more obvious than in 1999. With hurricane Dennis menacing the coast, 4,863 golfers from all 50 states and 25 foreign countries still made the trek. The Grand Strand avoided a direct hit, and though the event was shortened to 54 holes after the opening round was washed out, the tournament went off without a hitch.
In 2000, the World Amateur surpassed 5,000 participants, forcing tournament organizers to cap the field. To make the tournament even more competitive, Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday created six divisions within the tournament field men (49 and under), senior men (50-59), mid senior men (60-69), super senior men (70 and over), women (49 & under) and senior women (50 and over).
The public has responded to the event and its unique format from the outset. Over its history, more than 57,000 golfers have participated in the tournament, which is now played on more than 80 courses along the Grand Strand.
A tournament that began over a casual lunch between two men with a love for Myrtle Beach golf has grown into one of the largest golfing events. With the only requirement for participation being a certified United States Golf Association handicap or the foreign equivalent, the DuPont Coolmax World Amateur Handicap Championship truly has become the world's greatest amateur golf tournament.
The DuPont Coolmax World Amateur Handicap Championship is a four-day, 72-hole flighted tournament open to any amateur golfer with a verified USGA handicap or the foreign equivalent. The 20th annual event will be played on approximately 80 courses in the Myrtle Beach area. A fifth day play-off of all flight winners and ties will be played at the TPC of Myrtle Beach to determine the world champion.
This year's event, scheduled for Aug. 25 through Aug. 29, will be the 20th anniversary tournament.
The tournament field includes six divisions: men (49 years of age and younger), senior men (50-59 years of age), mid-senior men (60-69 years of age), super senior (70 years of age and older), women (49 years of age and younger) and super senior women (50 years of age and older).
Players will be flighted according to their handicap index, with a maximum handicap index of 36.4 for men, and 40.4 for women. Each flight averages 100 players.
Entry fee for this year's tournament is $465 ($505 after July 1) and includes:
Four rounds of golf (cart included) on four different golf courses.
Matched handicap flights.
Four evenings of food, drinks, golf exposition, live entertainment, contests and camaraderie at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
A final day championship playoff at the TPC of Myrtle Beach.
A gift bag on arrival as well as trophies, top-10 prizes in each flight, and random drawing prizes all with a total value of more than $400,000.
Each flight is assigned to four golf courses and pairings are arranged so players are in different foursomes each day.
Players can access course assignments at PlayDupont.com.
All participants receive a mailing in early July requesting their current handicap index. Tournament staff uses that verified index to flight each player within their respective division.
Each of the approximately 50 flights have ten identical prizes plus trophies for first, second and third place finishers and plaques for positions four through 10.
There are contests for low net, long drive, and closest to the pin. Holes-in-one receive a special prize as well. As an extra attraction, there are random drawings (participants only) for prizes including exotic trips, golf clubs, and golf memorabilia.
35,000 cocktails, 60 kegs of beer
140 gallons of she crab soup
4 fully roasted pigs
1,000 lbs of pulled pork
100 pans of lasagna
75 pans of cobbler
August 7, 2003
Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.
For a comprehensive club-fitting experience, Kiel Christianson tried out the Club Champion method, which has grown to many major U.S. markets.
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