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.
Getty Images

Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”