It's become an annual tradition for Benny Bachand to play in the Veterans Golf Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., every May.
Bachand, 65, an Ocala, Fla., resident who served in the Navy from 1966-68, has played in the tournament 10 consecutive years, including the last eight with his brother, Jeff, an Army veteran.
'It's a great time because of all the veterans,' Bachand said. 'Over the years I've built up a lot of relationships with veterans in other states. Every year, it becomes a reunion. A lot of (the appeal) is the camaraderie. And Myrtle Beach is a great golf destination.'
The 13th annual event, run by Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday -- the Grand Strand's golf marketing cooperative -- is set for May 20–23 at 12 area courses, which include Arcadian Shores Golf Club, Black Bear Golf Club, Burning Ridge Golf Club, Farmstead Golf Links, Heather Glen Golf Links, Lion's Paw at Ocean Ridge Plantation, Man-O-War Golf Links, Meadowlands, Myrtlewood Golf Club's Palmetto, the East course at Pearl Golf Links, Sandpiper Bay Golf and Country Club and Wizard Golf Club.
Registration, accepted until May 4, is open to all current or former U.S. military members and friends who have USGA handicaps. Sign up at veteransclassic.com or call 800-833-8798 for more information.
Jeff Monday, the tournament director, said the Veterans Golf Classic continues to grow. The registration pace is on par with last year, he said, when 435 players teed it up. He added that single players regularly get paired up with players of similar skill level and similar military background.
'It's not just about the golf,' Monday said. 'It is about them getting together. That's what brings them back and what brings us new players every year.'
The 54-hole event is comprised of two-person teams vying in four handicapped flights -- Eisenhower, MacArthur, Nimitz and Franks divisions. The event features a different format each day -- better ball, scramble and combined net team score. Each team must include at least one former or present member of the armed forces.
Besides the two-man tournament, the Veterans Golf Classic's Branch Challenge pits the five branches of the U.S. military against each other with the lowest cumulative score crowned champion. In 2011, Army won the title. The Carolina Cup -- matching members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars against the American Legion -- is an additional tournament within the tournament. VFW won for the seventh time last year.
Veterans Golf Classic entry fees are $230 (per person) for past participants; $250 for new players. Included are three rounds of golf with cart, range balls, welcome reception, Wednesday night awards banquet (food/drink provided), a hat and shirt, and additional prizes.
Bachand said he enjoys the camaraderie of the welcome reception and awards banquet.
'In the military, they use comradeship as an important bond,' he said. 'You live close together for a long period of time. You create a great relationship and trust with those you serve with. By going every year, you see that kind of friendship, even from people you have never met before. There is a kinship there.'