All of us have dreamed of being a professional athlete at some point in our childhood. For most of us we decided it might not be in the cards. Fortunately in Myrtle Beach, SC for the last 33 years there’s an opportunity to live out your dreams for a chance to be titled the best in the world.

Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, one of the host courses ranked in the Top 100 in America.

It can all be yours at the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship. Each year at the end of August 3,400+ amateur golfers descend on the Grand Strand for their shot at glory. Myrtle Beach is known as where ‘America Comes to Play’ because of the abundance of golf courses. I like to joke you can’t hit a driver anywhere in town without it landing on a local course.

If you’ve got an established USGA handicap you can sign up. Even if you don’t they’ll get you one for free. Given your gender, age and handicap you’ll be flighted with 48 other golfers of similar ability. With your entry fee you’ll get four rounds on premier courses, a welcome gift bag, tons of prize opportunities and four nights of the World’s Largest 19th Hole.

What’s the entry fee? $625. How are they able to give you all that and more for such a low price in comparison to other golf tournaments? Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, their parent organization, is a non-profit cooperative; so every dollar put into the entry fee gets dished right back out into the tournament. No fluff or profit margin to speak of!

The 2016 Tournament Gift Bag
The 2016 Tournament Gift Bag

You’re right to assume 3,400 players can’t all come from one place. In fact, they come from all 50 states and 25 foreign countries. What you wouldn’t have guessed about the Myrtle Beach International Airport is that they serve over 30 non-stop markets through Allegiant, American, Delta, Elite, Porter, Spirit, United and Westjet. Part of the reason the field is so diverse. It’s a guessing game to see who you might play with. Maybe someone from Italy or Portugal or Australia.

This year the tournament will be held August 29 – September 2 with check in days on August 27-28. Your week will start at the PGA TOUR Superstore on Sunday checking in and grabbing your gift bag. Inside are two apparel pieces from Greg Norman Collection, a belt from Nexbelt, a Club Glove head cover, $20 PGA TOUR Superstore gift card among a few other items. The whole bag retail would run around $250 if you bought it all yourself. Right there you’ve already made up almost half your entry fee.

An overhead view of the 19th Hole
An overhead view of the 19th Hole

For those that have never been to Myrtle Beach before there’s a few icebreakers to meet other competitors. I might join in on one of the skins games other participants throw together. It serves as a meet and greet while playing the game we love. One lucky winner will walk away with more money than they started. The other option is to head over to Broadway at the Beach for the Welcome Party the tournament staff puts together. From 5-7PM all the area bars have happy hour prices and a live band taking center stage.

Be careful not to over indulge. We’ve got a 9AM tee time Monday morning and for three more days after that. That first tee box is a whole new experience for most everybody. It’s not often you play tournament golf with a chance to be ‘World Champion’. But shake off those first tee jitters because everyone else is in the same boat.

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The Indoor version of TPC Sawgrass #17

Myrtle Beach boasts seven of the top 100 you can play in America and the tournament is hosted on 50 courses throughout the week so the odds are decent you get to play one. Top tracks include Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, Barefoot Resort, TPC Myrtle Beach, Grande Dunes and Tidewater to name a few.

If your round(s) didn’t go as planned there’s nothing to worry about. Four rounds of golf means four nights of celebrating that great tee shot or drinking away your 17 missed greens in regulation.

You’ve heard of a 19th Hole before but this is like nothing else. The entire Myrtle Beach convention center is one giant party. As if three hours of open bar wasn’t enough, there’s also free food from ten different local restaurants and plenty of vendors selling their latest and greatest in golf technology.

It’s been said the 19th Hole serves as one half party, one half practice facility and one half live entertainment. Celebrity guests also join in on the fun. Charlie Rymer has been a staple at the tournament for many years. This year PGA TOUR winner Tommy Gainey will be hanging out sharing stories of life on the tour. John Maginnes and Brian Katrek of PGA TOUR Sirius XM Radio will be doing a live broadcast on stage.

What else can you do other than hang out with celebrities? Play golden tee, cornhole, test out the latest brands… and most importantly, take a shot at $25,000 at the indoor par 3 contest. Yes, there is an indoor replica of TPC Sawgrass #17. Limited distance golf balls allow you to hit wedges from 65 yards to raise money for charity and take a chance to win some cash.

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Hanging out with Win McMurry, John Daly and Charlie Rymer

Keep in mind Myrtle Beach isn’t just a buddies golf trip. It also has 60 miles of beach, great shopping and restaurants. The World Am is family friendly (kids under 21 are free in the Convention Center), but if they want to explore town there is plenty going on! Two Tanger Outlet malls boast hundreds of shops for the family to spend some time in while not on the beach.

For any nights not taking advantage of the free food and booze you can stop in at one of the many great steak or seafood joints. Seafood wise get a table at Flying Fish or locals favorite Bimini’s. If steak is your flavor head to New York Prime. For the best happy hour on the beach (and local brew) stop in at Liberty Tap Room. Can’t decide between the two? Head to 21 Main for the best chops and great seafood. And since this is a sports themed vacation– see if the Chicago Cubs Single A affiliate Myrtle Beach Pelicans are in town.

Only one player from your flight will move on past 72 holes of competition. If it’s you, congratulations! You’ve already solidified getting a trophy and a $600 gift card to the PGA TOUR Superstore. Just one more round separates you from the larger hardware. Of 70 flights, the top player and ties from each get to advance to the Flight Winners Playoff at the Dye Club in North Myrtle Beach.

Sunrise at the Dye Club in North Myrtle Beach
Sunrise at the Dye Club in North Myrtle Beach

The select few that get to experience this atmosphere will get a taste of what it’s like on the PGA TOUR. The hospitality at the Dye Club is top notch. An elegant breakfast awaits prior to your tee time. Signage with sponsor recognition and welcome banners thanking you for participating. A ‘monsterboard’ displaying the top players throughout the day and live scoring for friends to follow along at home.

The Dye Club is one of the top tracks in all of Myrtle Beach in terms of aesthetic beauty but also the hardest. Pete Dye did not take a break from this treacherous prototypical design. When it’s all said and done, there can only be one champion. But whether you came for the golf or the party you’ll be sure to have had a great time making new friends. With 3,400 players from all 50 states and 25 countries you can’t leave town without making plans to head back. Are you greater than all the rest?

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