After an announcement in early 2013, things are shaping up in the Myrtle Beach area such that the first-ever PGA Professional National Championship held on the Grand Strand is going to be a smashing success.
From June 22-25, 312 of the continent’s best PGA professionals will tee it up for 72 holes, narrowing the field to the low 70 and ties at the halfway mark and ultimately sending the top 20 finishers to the 2014 PGA Championship, to be held at Valhalla Golf Club August 7-10.
With any luck, 2014’s edition will feature a similarly thrilling ending to 2013’s. Hels at Sunriver Resort in Oregon, a large playoff for the final few spots in the PGA Championship ended when Rob Labritz, professional at GlenArbor Golf Club in New York, holed out from about 100 yards for a clinching birdie. His jumping celebration remained on highlight reels through the PGA Championship and beyond.
Coastal South Carolina looks to provide a wonderful tableau for such drama this year. Those who make it through the tourament’s four rounds will end up playing one round at Grande Dunes Resort Club and the other three just a few miles away at the venerable Dunes Golf & Beach Club.
The two Myrtle Beach golf courses are a pleasing contrast. Grande Dunes is a decidedly modern course, having been designed by Roger Rulewich and opened in 2001. The Dunes, on the other hand, is Myrtle Beach’s titan of classic design, having opened in 1949, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The PNC joins the likes of the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying, the United States Women’s Open, the Senior Tour Championship and the Southern Amateur as high-profile competitive golf contested over the Dunes’ spectacular and challenging course.
The key stretch of holes the PGA pros will have to negotiate is undoubtedly “Alligator Alley,” named for the ancient reptiles that lurk in the waters that border holes 11, 12 and 13—a par 4, a par 3 and a par 5. The 11th is a mid-length par four that requires a fairway-bound tee shot (not necessarily with a driver) before a tense approach over the corner of a large marshland to a peninsula green guarded by bunkers and, yes, more water.
Another section of that water must be carried on the tee shot of the par-3 12th, which has a tee that can make the hole play a scary 245 yards. Alligator Alley concludes with one of the Grand Strand’s most famous holes, a 600-yard par five that curls around Singleton Swash (more water) in the shape of a giant C. If players want to set themselves up for a short third shot, they will need to carry up to 200 yards’ worth of water on their second shots.
The PNC has been contested in recent years at many top American golf courses, from The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in 2005 to Reynolds Plantation in Georgia in 2008 to Sunriver Resort outside Bend, Oregon in 2013.
“We really want the players to come out and enjoy themselves and then go back to their memberships and talk about the area and what a great area it is to go to and play an event, or just take a group of members to,” said Mark Tschetshot, the PGA’s Director of Member Championships, in an interview with SIRIUS/XM PGA Tour Network Radio host John Maginnes.
Both golf courses will be in peak championship condition and will get to show off their greenery this June. And 20 pros will punch their tickets—many of them for the first time—to Valhalla.