A few reasons why you should play the Golf Channel Am Tour

By Erik PetersonApril 12, 2010, 7:02 pm
palmetto dunes jones 10
The 10th hole at the Jones course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort (courtesy Palmetto Dunes)

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – GolfChannel.com spent a recent weekend with the Golf Channel Am Tour at the Palmetto Dunes Major Championships, where 163 amateur golfers in 10 flights navigated their way through the Jones and Hills courses at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. If you’re not familiar with the Am Tour, here is your introduction. In fact, if you’re not playing the Am Tour, these are a few reasons why you should.

Feel like a pro

For more golf in Hilton Head Island, or to plan your next trip visit:
Whether you’re playing in a PGA Tour event or a charity scramble, the goal of any competitive golfer is painfully simple: Win the tournament. And while most events have one winner and a bunch of losers, the Am Tour has found a way to spread the wealth without diluting the experience of winning. If you don’t believe us, just ask Erwin Watson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., one of ten flight winners at Palmetto Dunes.

“This is my first-ever win,” the elated 11-handicapper told GolfChannel.com after capturing the Sarazen flight. “I’ve been close, but no cigar. It feels great to finally get a win.”

Each of the ten flight winners at Palmetto Dunes walked away with a Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card, a crystal trophy, and the priceless confidence boost that comes with beating the best players in your skill level.

In addition to the winnings, the stage on which these championships are conducted is equally impressive. The list of this year’s Am Tour Major host sites reads like a PGA Tour schedule, with current PGA Tour venues TPC San Antonio, PGA National, TPC Deere Run, Innisbrook and TPC Scottsdale on the Am Tour roster. Fittingly, this year's National Championships are staged at the famed Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass.

If all that isn’t enough to make you feel like a pro, know that in true PGA Tour fashion, each competitor’s name is announced as he or she is called to the 1st tee. It can be a nervous jolt of reality if you’re not used to playing tournament golf, but it’s the price you pay for playing on the same stage as the pros.

Family and work-friendly events

Click here for more info on the Am Tour

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
Where to play:
There are three courses –  Jones, Fazio and Hills. Each is excellent, with a different style and level of difficulty.

Where to stay:
Whether you’re visiting with buddies and need to rent a house, or you just need a quaint hotel room, Palmetto Dunes has every accommodation type imaginable. Click here for more info.

In the area:
Harbour Town Golf Links, host of the PGA Tour Verizon Heritage is less than 15 minutes away. The postage-stamp-size greens are the signature here, as is the par-4 18th hole with the famed lighthouse in the background… Another top course in the area is May River Golf Club at nearby Palmetto Bluff. You have to stay at the high-end hotel for playing privileges, but if you can afford it, it’s one of the finest tracks in the state.

If you’re like most golfers, there are two things powerful enough to make playing the game we love nearly impossible: Family and work. Fortunately, the Am Tour has a decent solution for both.

If you tell your family you’re heading to South Carolina for a golf tournament next month, there’s a good chance you’ll get a roll of the eyes and a reminder that you were just at a golf tournament – even if you weren’t.

To make the family happy, consider bringing them with you. After all, most local and regional Am Tour events are at family-friendly resorts, and Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island – the South Carolina vacation spot – is no exception.

In addition to three great golf courses, Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort has abundant beaches, bike trails, tennis courts, kayaking, fishing and shopping, which ensures your family will have plenty to do while you’re on the golf course.

“Bringing my wife with me is great because golf courses are the one place she doesn’t like to go, and malls are the one place I don’t like to go,” joked Jones flight winner Delbert Roberts, who made the 11-hour drive from Louisville, Ky. with his wife. “Turning these tournaments into three-or-four-day weekends is just easier.”

If it’s business that has you tied up, consider the Am Tour’s national footprint of more than 800 events in 33 states.

Have a Monday seminar in Dallas? What better way to clear your mind before the meeting than to fly in a day early and play an Am Tour event? Your annual membership allows you to play in as many events as you’d like, on any of the 61 local tours.

You never know who you’ll meet
While there is no official record kept for most accomplished golfer on the Am Tour, the nod undoubtedly goes to 71-year-old Don Allen, Rochester, N.Y., a seasoned amateur golfer who, in addition to the Palmetto Dunes Major, played in three Masters and four U.S. Opens. But don’t remind him about all that.

Recalling his experience at Palmetto Dunes, Allen laughed. “On the practice tee people came up to me and said, ‘I heard you played in the Masters!’ I told them, ‘Yeah, I did. Now can you please turn your back when I hit? That was during a different life.’”

Joking aside, Allen really did dominate amateur golf in the 1960s. In that span he won three of his 11 New York State Amateur titles, and was two shots out of a playoff at the 1966 U.S. Amateur at Merion. His performance in elite amateur events earned him a position on two Walker Cup teams.

“In the middle 60s I played at a pretty good level,” Allen recalls, “but when marriage and children came along I was one of those guys that had to work. I thought I could play all right, but I just didn’t want to get into all the other stuff.”

Instead of golf, the entrepreneurial Allen focused on his insurance business, which he still runs today in Rochester. He has a second home in Hilton Head Island, S.C., and learned of the Palmetto Dunes Major in the local paper. It was the first round of golf he’d played in five months.

“I went out there and hit a couple practice balls, and all the sudden I got called to the first tee and I was like, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’”

Allen was placed in the Championship flight, and although he finished 17th out of 20 golfers, none of that mattered to the grizzled vet.

“I was appreciative of the way I was treated by the staff out there, and I made some friends too. It was a really fun tournament all the way around.”

Fuel for your competitive fire
In speaking with flight winners after the Palmetto Dunes Major we found that above all, competition is what they enjoy most about the Am Tour.

“I joined the Am Tour because I wanted tournament experience, plain and simple,” said Championship flight winner Jonathan Bolen, Jacksonville, Fla. The +1.9-handicapper has aspirations to play professionally, and he values the experience he’s gaining by playing the Am Tour.

For others, a sort of competition within the competition is what motivates them.

Sal Minicozzi, Braselton, Ga., attributed his victory in the Senior Hogan flight to the motivation he receives from a group of friends from home that plays the Am Tour with him.

“A friend from my home club gathered a group and said, ‘Let’s play the Am Tour,’” Minicozzi said. “We play competitively at our home club too, but this is different, and it’s good. Out here you don’t have that level of comfort that we do at home.”

David Small, a former linebacker at Purdue University, is using the Am Tour to literally get his life back on track. In 2008, Small experienced life’s ultimate double-bogey when he suffered a massive heart attack during a kidney transplant operation. He says the Am Tour has allowed him to ease back into feeling the same competitive jitters he felt in his college football days.

“You can’t really understand competition until you get out there and actually compete,” Small said. “I played a sudden death playoff last year on the Am Tour, and when I gave one putt the Phil fist pump I sort of surprised myself. I’m usually more reserved than that.”

The Am Tour, it seems, has a unique way of connecting all types of golfers with a common bond: They just want to compete.
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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.