By Tony Leodora

The results are in.

Another year of exhaustive research; another strenuous week of testing everything new; another three days of pounding the miles of aisles at the world’s largest golf show … and ten new products have made one of the most coveted lists in the golf industry.

Once again “Tony’s Top Ten” attempts to bring you in touch with items that caught our eye at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando … that stopped us in our tracks … that put us into “gotta have it” mode.

And, as usual, the lists contain an assortment of clubs, apparel and accessories. If it caught our eye, it made the list.

There were more than 1,000 showing their wares during the week. More than 200 were new to the PGA Merchandise Show. And 41,000 buyers, industry leaders and PGA professionals from 79 countries were there to “kick the tires” of what was on display.

Finally, the show covered one million square feet of interactive exhibit and demonstration space at the Orange County Convention Center. Therefore, it was not an easy task to come up with the number of products worthy of making “Tony’s Top Ten.”

So, sound the trumpets – here is this year’s list:

  1. Antigua Leader Quarter-Zip Pullover – When it comes to a combination of fashion and performance, Antigua has hit a home run with its latest pullover. The Leader pullover has a luxurious silky-smooth feel, yet exhibits amazing durability – the result of a poly-spandex blend. It is extremely comfortable to wear on the golf course. All of the latest colors of the high-fashion world are available.

  2. Tour Edge E8 Tour Fairway Wood – Accomplished golfers discovered long ago the secret of Tour Edge fairway woods. Now they have a new weapon. The Tour Edge Exotics E8 Tour adjustable fairway wood delivers an unsurpassed level of excellence. The E8 Tour combines a tour-inspired design, a state-of-the-art manufacturing process, upgraded materials – and all with more loft adjustability options than the competition. The concept behind the E8 Tour stemmed from the need for an adjustable fairway wood on Tour. Featuring loft options from 12 to 15.5 degrees, along with a more upright lie angle, this level of versatility allows Tour players – and the discerning amateur — to dial in the ideal ball flight.

  3. Srixon Z-Series Golf Balls – The new Z-Star and Z-Star XV golf balls are an improvement on an already proven line of balls. The new models feature a significant improvements in both core and cover. The cover features the second generation Spinskin, which produces more friction for increased spin on shots to the green, and the new 324 dimple pattern with patented Speed Dimples. The Energetic Gradient Growth Core combines with the new cover to produce the best performing tour ball Srixon has ever made.

  4. High Heat Driver It is already being called “the longest driver nobody ever heard of” … but that tag won’t last for long. The High Heat driver was the talk of the PGA Show. It was developed by Dean Knuth – a golf innovator who invented the slope system for golf courses. After five years of research, he is launching a driver that was developed specifically for amateurs. Claims of longer and straighter have been substantiated on the range and indoor testing locations. Best part about this driver that has a retail price of $399 – it includes a choice of premium shaft from Aldila or Fujikura, free shipping, no sales tax … and it has a pre-launch special price of $299 to those who mention GolfTalk Live when ordering. In addition, there is a 30-day money back guarantee.

  5. Infamous 18 Holes of Golf – In the 1980s a talented artist, Bud Chapman, created a series of paintings that took the golf world by storm. His “Infamous 18 Holes of Golf” portrayed some of the wildest and exciting fictional golf holes ever imagined. The paintings have stood the test of time as a golf icon. Now high-quality prints are available at affordable prices. One or two of these prints is a must-for any golf themed office. The entire set would be a great addition to a golf clubhouse or golf-themed sports bar.

  6. PosiSet for Putters – The new rules regarding anchored putting are forcing golfers to change their preferred style. And, for many, fear of the return of the “yips” is a real problem. Counter-balanced putters, slightly longer putters with extra weight in the butt end of the club, has been a remedy for some. But the cost of experimenting with these new putters can be prohibitive. Greenkeepers, the Philadelphia-based company that has brought a number of unique and helpful inventions to the game of golf, has a solution. The PosiSet-for-Putters insert, which easily attaches to any putter, provides the same feel as counterbalancing … for only $9.99.

  7. Corqe Grips and Accessories – Every once in a while a product just looks so cool, it stops you in your tracks. That’s exactly what happened at the Corqe booth, a new company displaying a line of golf club grips and accessories made from cork that is harvested in Portugal. Not only are the products – especially the putter grips – stylish and functional, they are environmentally friendly. The cork trees are not cut down. Instead the bark is shaved off and harvested, and it replenishes over the years. The grips have a rich feel and are very durable. The use of cork on accessories, such as golf bags, gives a luxurious look to the products.

  8. Bridgestone e Series Golf Balls – Bridgestone Golf has made quite a dent in the market share of the golf ball industry in recent years. Many tour professionals claim they are the best golf balls being produced today. Their new E Series golf balls now have the amateur golfer in mind. They cure deficiencies in golfers’ games so well, they should be dispensed by prescription only. The new e5 ball produces a higher flight, for golfers who need to carry the ball farther. The e6 ball has an anti-side spin inner layer that produces a straighter flight. The e7 ball has a spin-reducing inner layer that produces a more piercing flight. Let the Tour pros play with the golf ball designed for them. The new e Series golf balls are made for amateurs.

  9. Sunice – Sunice is a Canadian-based company that has been a leader in both golf and ski outerwear for years. Their technology has been used to create uniforms for the Ryder Cup, President’s Cup and Solheim Cup teams. Their latest creation is the lightest, warmest piece of outerwear on the market. The Derby jacket is down-filled, but don’t picture the old over-stuffed models. This jacket is so sleek and light that provides as much performance as warmth. Stretch inserts through the key areas of the jacket make it move with the player. It is a perfect addition to the wardrobe of the avid golfer … because not every day on the golf course is 75 degrees and sunny.

  10. Super Stroke Grips – When golfers find something that works, they go for it in a big way. Nothing has been a bigger hit in recent years with competitive golfers than the oversized line of putter grips from Super Stroke. Probably the most visible of the PGA Tour golfers using oversized Super Stroke grips are Jordan Speith and Jason Dufner. But a large number of the top pros can be seen with the big, round grips on their putters. The secret has been parallel technology on the grips, without taper, that allows golfers to relax, have less tension and make a better stroke. And Super Stroke now makes a counter-balanced grip that can be installed on a player’s favorite putter. The Plus Series grips have counter core technology. A 50-gram weight can be inserted in the butt end of the grip.

Tony’s Test Drives

One in a series of occasional reviews of courses, destinations, equipment or products by our traveling golf writer and host of the GolfTalk Live radio show.

By Tony Leodora

When people think of taking a golf trip to Arizona their minds immediately track to the famous courses in Phoenix or Scottsdale. Those areas hold a special breed of familiarity with golfers from all over the country.

No knock against either location. They have made their mark in traveling golf circles for decades.

But, if you are looking for something a bit different … a bit more adventurous … a bit more tied to the rugged Old West, look slightly south to Tucson.

For years Tucson has provided an outstanding assortment of golf courses – most of them nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. In the last decade, the Tucson area received a major shot in the arm with the opening to two spectacular resorts.

The first was Dove Mountain, with the Jack Nicklaus-designed course that has hosted the World Match Play Championship the last few years.

The second was Sewailo, which opened in 2013. It is nestled up against the spectacular Casino del Sol Resort, which is part of the Pascua Yaqui Indian Nation.

While Dove Mountain has gained worldwide coverage, thanks to the PGA Tour event, Sewailo is just making its mark. And that is why it was chosen as the host site for the 17th Freedom Trail Challenge – an amateur event that has been around the world and across the country.

This year’s event pitted two 12-man teams – one representing the North and one representing the South.

“A lot of the players had never been to Tucson for golf before,” said Joe Sosnowski, veteran captain of the North team. “It was a whole new experience for them.”

And a very rewarding experience.

The casino is a very nice, mid-size casino – with an assortment of excellent dining options. The steakhouse was a favorite of many visitors. Of course, if visitors are looking for authentic Mexican food, Tucson is the place.

“The Tucson Tourist Board gave me an amazing fact about the Mexican restaurants of the Tucson area,” said veteran golf writer Bill Huffman, who coordinated the trip for the Freedom Trail Challenge Team, as well as a group of visiting golf media members. “They told me that if you lined up the Mexican restaurants in Tucson, side by side, it would stretch for more than 20 miles.”

But golfers do not live by food alone. They need a comfortable place to rest their weary bones after a long day of golf.

The hotel, with its newly opened tower, was spectacular. The rooms ranged from large … to very large. Most provided stunning views of the golf course and the surrounding hills.

All of this made for entertaining nights … but it was the golf during the day that sent the visitors home with an abundance of stories.

Four courses were chosen for the competition. They provided a nice variety of old and new … mountainous to relatively flat.

Randolph North was the first of the four courses. It dates back to 1924 and is one of the oldest courses in Arizona. A recent renovation has restored the luster to this gem.

It is more parkland style – than the typical target golf style of modern desert courses. There are large trees that line the fairways and a number of interesting water features. The course is operated as a municipal golf course and is one of the outstanding golf values of the area.

Westin La Paloma is a semi-private course that is only open to members and hotel guests. Designed by Jack Nicklaus in the mid-‘80s, it has 27 holes of golf cut out of the mountains.

The rugged terrain makes for many interesting shots … and some treacherous ones. There are a number of elevation changes that provide spectacular vistas of the golf course and the surrounding mountains. It is a pure desert experience.

Arizona National first opened under the name of The Raven at Sabino Springs. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones II in the mid-‘90s. The course fell on hard times and actually closed for a couple of years. Recent new ownership and renovations have brought it back in grand fashion.

The course abuts the Coronado National Forest and follows the rugged natural flow of the land across shady mesquite-lined gulches and rock outcroppings. The course has been home to professional golf events, as well as home course until recently for the University of Arizona golf teams.

Sewailo has only been open for two years but it is making quite a name for itself. It was designed by former PGA Tour player Notah Begay, who dedicated the course to his Native American heritage.

The course is gigantic in scope, with extra-large green complexes and holes that are generously separated from other holes. There are a number of natural and man-made water features on the golf course. The course measures 7,400 yards from the championship tees but there are five sets of tees, so golfers can pick their poison.

Overall, the trip to Tucson proved to be a great mix of entertainment, comfort and exceptional golf. Oh, and by the way, the North team pulled out a very close win over the South – providing another reason to tell stories once the players returned home.

The Black Cat Cigar Lounge on Germantown Pike in East Norriton has been the scene for a number of GolfTalk Live radio broadcasts – built around a Happy Hour party that usually includes food and plenty of Yuengling Beer. But the latest one had a spicy flair to it.

The inaugural Yuengling Chili Cook-Off was the theme for the GolfTalk Live Party on Thursday, November 6. Listeners were invited to bring in a sampling of their finest homemade chili to compete in a contest – with voting by the patrons on hand at Black Cat Cigars. The winner received a $50 gift certificate from Redstone American Grill.

Four contestants entered their chili in the contest. The reviews from those in attendance were extremely favorable for all of the entries. And the entries definitely were varied. There was a traditional chili, a turkey chili and a vegetarian chili. Each received first place votes.

But the overall winner was supplied by Nick Giovanangelo – better known as Nicky G, proprietor of Inside Jewelers on West Chester Pike in Broomall. No surprise to anyone who knows the man – the official Gastronome of GolfTalk Live – his entry was “Italian Chili.”

“I don’t want to sound like a one-trick pony, but all of my cooking usually has an Italian flair to it,” said Giovanangelo, upon receiving the first place prize. “It might not be traditional, but it definitely is tasty.”

Instead of the typical ground beef as a base for the chili, ground Maglio Italian sausage was substituted. In place of the typical array of beans, cannellini beans were used. Imported chopped San Marzano tomatoes were used to create the sauce. Of course, garlic was an important ingredient. Concessions to traditional chili recipes were made, with the use of spices such as cumin and chili powder.

The final result was a chili that burst with flavor, had the right amount of spiciness and definitely paired well with the Yuengling products on display that night – especially the Black and Tan and the Chesterfield Ale.

As a holiday gift to GolfTalk Live listeners, Nicky G has provided the award-winning recipe below:
1 can of San Marzano Tomatoes
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion
onion powder
1 lb. hot Italian sausage (skinned)
1 lb ground meat (80%-20%)
2 tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. sriracha
2 cans of white kidney beans (drained)
2 oz. red wine

Cut onion and garlic cloves, submerge in the bottom of pan with olive oil and render.
Once rendered, pour into a crock pot or similar, then pour entire can of San Marzano tomatoes into the same pot.
Brown the ground meat and hot Italian sausage, then pour into the same pot.
Cook for one hour stirring occasionally.
Put the two cans of kidney beans into the same pot.
Cook another 7-10 minutes.
Add all spices and stir for two minutes or less.
Add the 4 tbsp. of ketchup, 1 tbsp. of sriracha and 2 oz. of red wine and stir another two minutes or less.

Tony’s Test Drives
One in a series of occasional reviews of courses, destinations, equipment or products by our traveling golf writer and host of the GolfTalk Live radio show.

By Tony Leodora

There are a number of rewards that come with embracing the golfing lifestyle. At the top of the list is golf travel.

Seeing the country while playing the game of golf provides a never-ending treasure of rich memories. And those memories reach the highest level when visiting one of the great golf resorts of America.

There are a number of heralded resorts that offer all of the elements – multiple great golf layouts on one site, a variety of accommodations that range from comfortable to luxurious, outstanding restaurants, and plenty of other activities to fill the hours not spent on the golf course.

The names roll off the tongue – Pinehurst, Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island, Doral and Innisbrook in Florida, Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits. The mere mention of these places transports golfers into daydream mode, and plants the seed for plans that will result in the next great golf trip.

Reynolds Plantation, in the lake country of Georgia – about 75 miles northeast of Atlanta – is one of those properties. In fact, after considering all of the factors, it might be at the top of the list.

Reynolds Plantation is a 10,000 acre collection of properties and golf courses developed along the picturesque shores of Georgia’s massive Lake Oconee. It is conveniently close enough to Atlanta, and all of its travel connections, despite seemingly being light years away from all of the hustle and bustle.

Twenty years ago it was a little known upstart of a golf resort that was tucked away in a very rural part of the Georgia countryside. With the addition of golf courses, a variety of accommodations, residential properties and acclaimed restaurants, it has grown into one of the most special golf locations in the country.

Of course, when talking about world-class golf resorts, every discussion must begin with the quality of the golf courses. Reynolds offers 99 holes of golf open to the public – plus another outstanding 18-hole private layout – all within the confines of the property. It is the ultimate combination of convenience and excellence.

“You would be hard-pressed to find this combination of outstanding golf and accommodations on one property anywhere in the world,” says Mark Lammi, director of golf operations at Reynolds Plantation. “Plus, with the variety of great golf courses, designed by great golf architects, you could play here for the rest of your life and never get bored.”

Lammi, a native of Easton, Pennsylvania, knows all about the attraction that Reynolds Plantation poses to golfers from the North. He studied the golf industry in the Penn State Professional Golf Management Program and it didn’t take long for him to decide that his golf future was on the shores of Lake Oconee.

“Once you make the move to Georgia’s lake country, you get stuck here,” Lammi admitted. The golf is the first attraction. Everything else solidifies the decision.”

The first golf course that started drawing attention to Reynolds Plantation was the Plantation Course – designed by Bob Cupp, with collaboration from famed professional golfers Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green. It opened in 1988 and immediately shined the spotlight on Reynolds Plantation.

The Plantation Course used the rolling hills of the interesting natural terrain and combined it with vistas of beautiful Lake Oconee. The fairways were cut from among the towering pine trees and the layout demands shotmaking skills from the golfers. It is the shortest of all courses at Reynolds and is appealing to players of all skill levels.

Another Bob Cupp design, The Landing, actually predates the Plantation Course. At the time of its opening, in 1986, it was known as Port Armor and stood as one of the more difficult courses in Georgia. It was later purchased, the name was changed, and it was added to the Reynolds Plantation collection.

The Great Waters Course, a Jack Nicklaus Signature design, opened in 1992. It features the most holes (nine) directly on the shores of Lake Oconee of any course at Reynolds Plantation and immediately achieved a national reputation.

A renovation of the green complexes and the bunkering in 2009 enhanced the quality of the Great Waters Course. It recently was chosen to host the first-ever Big Break Invitational, a 72-hole made-for-television tournament that featured a select field of 40 past champions from the Big Break television show. It was televised live on The Golf Channel.

The National Course opened in 1997, featuring 18 holes of natural beauty designed by Tom Fazio. An additional nine holes were added in 2000. Fazio made use of impressive elevations, as well as some inspirational vistas of Lake Oconee to create an unforgettable experience.

Dense forests of hardwoods, pines and flowering wild dogwoods provide the backdrop to some of Lake Oconee’s most dramatic lakefront topography. An extensive renovation in 2014 included converting the greens to Champion Bermuda.

Rees Jones joined the all-star team of golf course architects at Reynolds Plantation in 2002, with the opening of his Oconee Course. Again, much of the lake comes into play on this challenging layout, but Jones added some additional dramatic features.

The Oconee Course is an idyllic sanctuary, providing a pure, undisturbed setting for golf. Jones added a series of small waterfalls, flowing from greenside creeks, that enhance the beauty at the same time they increase the difficulty. The finishing three holes are an unforgettable crescendo to the trip around the Oconee Course.

The Creek Club, designed by architect Jim Engh, opened in 2007 and provided a private course for both residents and visitors to Reynolds Plantation. It is a stark contrast to the rest of the courses at Reynolds Plantation, with distinctive bunkering and a more rugged look to the entire layout.

That assortment of world-class golf at Reynolds Plantation should be enough to attract avid golfers from around the world. But there is plenty more to the vacation and permanent lifestyle at Reynolds Plantation that has quickly made it so attractive.

The vacation options range from the highly rated Ritz Carlton Lodge – a relaxed version of the luxury that has become attached to the hotel chain’s reputation – to an assortment of cottage options.

There are 2, 3, 4 and 6-bedroom cottages and houses available for rent though the main office at Reynolds Plantation. All offer the lakeside charm and convenience that enhance a visit of any duration.

One phenomenon that has been a noticeable part of the vacation growth at Reynolds Plantation over the years is the fact that some of the vacationers don’t want to leave. In fact, a growing community of part-time and full-time residents has evolved along the shores of Lake Oconee. As a result more amenities in the way of shopping, dining and services have developed in the surrounding areas.

Speaking of dining, the evolution of the culinary scene at Reynolds Plantation has attracted national attention in recent years.

There is a great variety of restaurants on property. The Plantation Grille is the comfortable and casual “neighborhood” gathering spot that features nightly specials. The Landing Restaurant has signature dishes such as the “Nothing but Crab” Cake, Fish & Chips, and a down-home meatloaf. The Overlook at Great Waters is a second-floor dining room with huge glass windows that provide spectacular views of Lake Oconee. It features fine dining without exorbitant resort prices. Georgia’s Bistro specializes in local cuisine that capitalizes on seasonally fresh ingredients from local farmers.

The Linger Longer Steakhouse in the Oconee Clubhouse is operated by the Ritz Carlton and offers high-end steaks and an extensive wine list. Another Ritz restaurant is Gaby’s by the Lake – outdoor dining with a charming lake view. It features a quality modern menu for “come as you are” dining.

Once visitors are fed, rested and entertained by the great golf courses of the Reynolds Plantation property, they might be motivated to improve their golf games.

One way is by spending a few days with Top 100 instructor Charlie King and his staff at the Reynolds Golf Academy. King is known for his philosophy that does not re-make the golf swing from scratch, but attempts to improve the game of the golfer within their particular physical limitations. His approach is popular with golfers of all ages.

Or, golfers might turn to a technological approach to improving their game. That can be achieved with a visit to the Kingdom at Reynolds Plantation. This TaylorMade-operated facility originally only was available to PGA Tour professionals. Now it offers an unmatched custom golf club fitting experience for all ages and skill levels. Add the TaylorMade Putting Lab and the Kingdom brings the ultimate in technology to the masses.

Need something more to convince you of the quality of recreational life at Reynolds Plantation? There is great fishing, boating, tennis, hiking – or just relaxing in a hammock and enjoying the natural beauty of the Lake Oconee area. Put everything together and it becomes quite evident why Reynolds Plantation has skyrocketed to the top of the list of great golf resorts in America.

By Eddie Caiazzo

In the Middle-Atlantic region of the United States, autumn is one of the most revered times of year by visitors from all parts of the country.  Ingredients like apples, squash and pumpkins start making their appearance in the local cuisine. The grills are put away in favor of fire pits…and the golf courses are painted the most brilliant shades of orange, red, green and gold.

While many other parts of the country are dealing with course closures and a recession, the Jersey Shore has expanded its offering of great golf courses using the most modern designs from the area’s best architects. Taking advantage of the growth and vitality of the Jersey Shore at its peak time of the year for golf is an activity that should be on the calendar of every avid golfer.

The Renault Winery Resort, the oldest active winery in New Jersey sitting on 48 acres in Egg Harbor City – is a perfect example of an attraction that viewed golf as a valuable added amenity. In 2004 it debuted Vineyard Golf at Renault Winery.

Designed by nationally-acclaimed architect, Ed Shearon, Renault was stop number one on a two-day, one-night trip to the area.  Exiting the Atlantic City Expressway early and taking a drive through the historic town of Hammonton gives the proper entrance to the property from route 561.  The short journey on Bremen Avenue through the woods brings into view a vibrant Tuscany-themed setting.

The main drive concludes at a fountain, with the Tuscany House Hotel to the left, and the golf course to the right.  The Indian Summer weather was very kind to the courses at the Jersey Shore this year, and Renault was in fantastic shape overall.

The course could at times be visually intimidating with some strategic fairway bunkers and water hazards, but the worst spot for the ball to land was in the vineyards themselves that lined a few of the holes like five, six and seven.  On a mild weather day in the 60s with some clouds, there is not a course that could rival the Renault golfing experience – but in the heat of a regular summertime at the shore, be prepared to be in direct sunlight for much of the round.

From Renault, the journey continued for an overnight at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, an immediate left turn entering Atlantic City.  Situated directly across the street from the Tanger outlet stores and the AC Convention Center, the amenities and location are unrivaled.

For business meetings and other social gatherings, the Tun Tavern (attached to the Sheraton) offers award-winning pub fare and a microbrewery.  TVs line the bar area, but the venue is large enough that there is no intrusion if a diner chooses a table.  Spend $10 in the Tun, and parking across the street is free.

If work needs to be done while staying at the Sheraton, the rooms are definitely set up to accommodate — wi-fi covers the entire hotel, there is a direct internet connection offered for faster speed and a heavier workload.  Sheraton Rewards members enjoy the increased amenity of a large lounge with free continental breakfast in the morning and happy hour fare in the afternoon.

For the golfer, the Sheraton is the premiere venue to begin planning a golf vacation to the area, located a few miles from the airport and within 25 minutes of every golf course in South Jersey.

“We realized that we were centrally located and the most convenient hotel to all of the great golf in the area,” said Carla Caulk, director of sales at the Sheraton. “Golf is not an afterthought with us. We put together great packages and make sure every need of the golfer is taken care of. We do everything but make the putts for birdies.”

A party bus from Joe’s Limousine Service, based in Mullica Hill, was the chosen mode of transportation and preferred Sheraton partner for transport to and from the golf course.  Not only was the party bus clean and comfortable, but it was a very stylish way to travel — offering leather seating and complimentary champagne with crystal glassware.

If journeying from far away, Joe’s also offers award-winning airport transportation.  This gives the option of going right to the golf course from the airport, or heading to the Sheraton to get checked-in before leaving for the course.  This provides maximum convenience, especially when traveling with golf clubs – and not having to move them until the bag drop is reached. 

Atlantic City still is always turned on, regardless of the negative media coverage that has been received as of late.  The closing of Showboat and more recently the Trump Plaza and Revel Casinos have received top billing in the mainstream media over the course of 2014.

What is not being reported is the success the city has been having with major events and conventions, and the burst in revenue as a result of free concerts like Lady Antebellum and Blake Shelton held during the summer.  Add the renovated Steel Pier to the mix along with world class dining from chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, and Atlantic City still is the premiere resort town on the east coast.

The final day of our fall golf trip in the Greater Atlantic City area comprised of 18 holes at the Stephen Kay-designed parkland gem, Harbor Pines Golf Club.  Kay is an award-winning architect known for designing Scotland Run, the furthest course west of the Greater AC area, Blue Heron Pines and McCullough’s Emerald Golf Links, which shares the same route 559.

Kay is known for his challenging layouts and quirkiness in a design, but Harbor Pines plays pretty fair for the everyday amateur golfer.  Most of the holes feature very generous fairways along with short rough.  Although the sand can find many a golf ball, the legendary “Sand Creek” on the par five seventh hole can be easily crossed for a birdie opportunity if not intimidated.  The beauty of Harbor Pines compared to a lot of other area parkland courses is the ability to view each hole from the tee box, keeping blind shots to a minimum.

While the golf at Harbor Pines is very enjoyable, with industry veteran General Manager Bob Ewing in charge of operations, the entire experience is first class.  Knowing the importance of Food and Beverage operations to a golf course, the cart service was most efficient along with the best invitation for two golfers to dine in the clubhouse after a round – $20 for wings, two burgers and a pitcher of beer.  “For $10 a person, there isn’t a deal in the whole Jersey golf scene that is better,” exclaims Philadelphia Daily News golf writer Mike Kern.  “And it is not just the value, but the quality of the food is better than some area private courses.”

The food special is also offered seven days a week, and advertised prominently on the carts and in the pro shop.

For travelers looking for a golf destination this fall, Atlantic City and its surrounding golf courses should be regarded with the highest esteem.  The quality of courses and world-class amenities offer a unique journey through golf history, remaining undeniably modern.  The two day experience was fantastic, but a Monday through Thursday should be spent golfing, with a Friday and Saturday spent on the town.  From the historic Men’s locker room at Atlantic City CC to the stately and historic Seaview Resort, golfers are quickly discovering why Fall Golf in Atlantic City remains always turned on.

The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach World Am

Sixth in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

A total of 3,405 golfers did battle in 76 flights on 60 different golf courses for four days – then 90 flight winners and ties faced off on the Dye Course at Barefoot Resort. And, even then it went down to a playoff.  All of this to determine the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship.

When the dust settled, 68-year-old Dennis Rasku proudly stood in front of the giant scoreboard and held the trophy.

“I never thought I would be here,” said Rasku, who works in the air conditioning business in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Most people would hear that statement and assume he is usually too busy in the summer to leave Florida and take a week off to play golf in Myrtle Beach. That would be true but there is even a great reason Rasku was surprised to be playing, let alone winning.

In January he suffered a major heart attack and was not allowed to play any golf for three months during his rehab.

“After I was able to play I just decided that I was going to do all of the things I always wanted to do,” he explained. “And playing in this event was one of them.”

Not since the early years of the event has a first-year player won the championship. And Rasku had never played any of the courses he competed on this week.

“I just came up with an open mind and decided to enjoy every minute of it,” Rasku said.” The tournament was better organized than anything I expected and the courses were better too.”

And when he returns to Pompano Beach carrying the trophy, does he expect his usual golf partners to call him Champ? “No, they will be calling me sandbagger,” the 15-handicapper admitted.

The week also was a dream week for Mark Gardiner, who won the first-ever Scratch Division championship.

After retiring from a 27-year career in the Air Force, Gardiner spent the last three years doing nothing but playing golf. It paid off. He shot 73-78-76-74 during the week, then saved the best for last by posting a sparking 1-under-par 71.

“I have to thank my wife, who is still in the Air Force,” said Gardiner. “She made it possible for me to do this.”

The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach World Am

Fifth in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

Today was Armed Forces Day at the 31st World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach … at least in my foursome.

I played with Gary Skinner from Fredericksburg, Virginia – a 20-year Marine who retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel. He now trains Marines on radar jamming aircraft.

I also played with Charlie Waters of Goldsboro, North Carolina — a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, who retired with the rank of 1st Sergeant.

To both, I would like to say, “Thank you for your service to our country.”

It was a pleasure to play the final round of the four-day tournament with both – as it was to play with Bud Cole, an insurance agent from central Illinois.

We played the River Oaks course, at the geographic center of the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand. It is in the third year of a resurrection under new ownership. The new Champion Bermuda grass greens were outstanding and a highlight of the course. The quarter-pound all-beef hot dogs cooked outside on the grill were pretty good, also.

Waters, who posted low score for the flight on Round 3 at Avocet with a 78, continued the torrid pace with a 76. He carded three birdies on the day.

Cole also displayed a solid round with an 81.

Skinner fell prey to a wild driver on this very tight golf course, carding an 88.

After six straight days of play (two practice rounds and the four tournament rounds), my swing also left me … especially the driver. I hit only six fairways all day (after hitting 12 fairways each at Carolina National and Avocet). It proved to be fatal, especially since the rough was extremely penal.

For the first day all week, I failed to card a birdie and stumbled home with an 85. It put me in 11th place out of 42 players in my flight for the tournament. Not horrible, but not what it could have been, considering how well I hit the ball most of the week.

But, with 3,405 golfers competing, I am in the company of about 3,300 golfers who are singing the should-a, could-a blues right now.

The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach World Am

Fourth in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

Over the years – approximately 12 visits to Myrtle Beach to play in the World Amateur Handicap Championship – there have been plenty of opportunities to play with competitors from other countries.

I have played with visitors from Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Columbia, France, Italy and Spain. Now I can add Portugal to the list.

In Round Three of the world’s largest golf tournament I got to play with Jose Candido Olveira, an attorney and an ultimate gentleman from Portugal. He spoke almost no English and I certainly don’t speak Portuguese. So we conversed in Spanish throughout the round.

Bob Hunter from Kansas City was the third player in our group. We were without a fourth. Hunter and I conversed mostly in the international language of “football.” He played collegiately, first, for Wichita State. After the tragic plane crash that killed most of the team, he transferred to SW Missouri State. The linebacker then spent two training camps with the then-St. Louis Cardinals, coached by Don Coryell. He now owns a tax consulting business.

Our venue was the Avocet course at Wild Wing Plantation. Once a proud collection of four golf courses, Wild Wing now has only one course – but it was always the best of the bunch. Avocet was in superb condition and provided a good challenge.

Unfortunately, I suffered through another totally schizophrenic day on the course. On the plus side there were three birdies (one good for my second skin of the week) and six pars. I hit 12 out of 14 fairways and had a respectable 33 putts.

Those stats should have added up to a very good round … but they were cancelled by way too many compound mistakes. A triple-bogey and four double-bogeys resulted in a disappointing 84 … on a day when I could have moved up the leaderboard. After climbing to 10th place after the second round, I slipped to 12th.

For the third straight day Dale Redger of Tempe, Arizona leads the flight. Rounds of 77-79-81 have forged a seven-shot lead.

Consistency – what a wonderful concept for success in competitive golf.

Third in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

When people are planning a golf trip to Myrtle Beach for the first time and seek advice, I immediately ask where they are planning to stay. People, especially first time visitors, have no idea of the magnitude of the golf footprint along Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand.

Courses from the far north – just below Wilmington, North Carolina – to courses at the far south – near Georgetown, South Carolina – stretch for a magnificent 90 miles. Lack of coordination in terms of picking golf courses close to the intended accommodations, can create a golf vacation where more time is spent driving the car than is spent driving the golf ball.

Case in point. Despite headquartering in a central location at the Sheraton Convention Center in downtown Myrtle Beach, as I do every year for the World Amateur Handicap Championship, at least one round always entails a long drive.

Round Two for my flight in this year’s edition of the world’s largest golf tournament was in Bolivia. No, not as far away as the South American country. It was at Carolina National … in Bolivia, North Carolina. The Fred Couples-designed gem is one of the northernmost courses along the Grand Strand. Despite a lack of any traffic at the time of our departure from the hotel (7 a.m.), it still took one hour to reach our destination.

Once there, it was a treat. For the second straight day we played a course in magnificent condition. All three nines of the 27-hole complex contain scenic portions along the Lockwood Folly River.

The weather was perfect – 83 degrees, a nice breeze, brilliant sunshine – and to make the experience even better, I played with three great fellow competitors (a repeating theme in this event).

Don Hanlon is a retired retail exec who grew up in Manhattan, lived for a short while in the Philadelphia suburb of Drexel Hill and now resides in Aiken, South Carolina – just across the river from Augusta, Georgia. He had a bad day on the course, shooting an uncharacteristic 94, but you would never know it. His demeanor kept us all loose.

Art Woehrman lives in Rockville Maryland and also enjoys retirement. After a career in the Navy, onboard submarines, he worked in private industry as a nuclear missile technician. His game is straight down the middle off the tee and he hit some laser-like iron shots. Some troubles on the greens led to an 87. This iss his rookie venture in the World Am.

Mark Dudley, with whom I played two years ago, had a strong putting day – until a couple of late hiccups. The strength of his game also was accuracy off the tee … and it led to an 86. He works for E.I. DuPont in Richmond, Virginia.

If scores seem a bit high for players with a handicap index of 8.1 to 8.5 … they were. The hole locations on the very undulating greens at Carolina National were very difficult. Some bordered on unfair. Nobody in the foursome made any really long putts. In fact, it was almost impossible to get any long putts to finish close to the hole. The crested locations repelled approach shots and caused most putts to roll away at the last minute.

I was extremely proud of the fact that I had “only” 34 putts in my round. Again I hit the ball well (though not as well as the first round) and, again, double bogeys were my downfall. I had three more “doubles” — and what seemed like rather harmless mistakes led to all of them.

I also had two more birdies and finished with a round of 82. That was the fourth-lowest score of the day and boosted me to 10th place, up from 18th. Dale Redger, first day leader with a 77, followed with a 79 and has put six shots between him and second place.

Second in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

Under absolutely ideal weather conditions, the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship got under way on Monday, August 25. Almost 4,000 players competed on 60 golf courses throughout the Greater Myrtle Beach area – 4,000 players and at least that many stories.

How about George James, playing in the Mid-Senior Division at the TPC of Myrtle Beach. He showed up at the golf course breaking the all-time record for wearing the most golf accessories.

He wore two golf gloves, with two sweat-absorbing wrist bands in place immediately above the gloves, a safari hat with a drape flowing down from the back to cover the neck, an elbow brace, a knee brace and dangling from his belt was a bag that contained his distance measuring device and various other gadgets. He must have started getting dressed Sunday night, in order to make Monday’s 9 a.m. tee time.

And then there was Keith Campbell, who owns a cottage rental management business in Brunswick, Georgia. An affable guy with a strong golf game, he looked like a cross between a member of the ZZ Top band and a character on the Duck Dynasty television show.

He was the polar opposite of another good-natured player in my foursome, Gene Patterson, the spit-shined news anchor for the ABC affiliate in Knoxville, Tennessee.

They helped me get through a Jekyl-Hyde round that should have qualified me for schizophrenic therapy.

Our fourth player was Dale Redger, an ultra-serious player who tied for low round of the day (77) on the very difficult TPC Myrtle Beach course. Despite his good fortune, he never cracked a smile throughout the round. The Tempe, Arizona roofing supply dealer actually played with baseball pitching great Roger Clemens two years ago in the World Am. When a comment was made about the apparent excitement of that pairing, he replied with a sour comment, “It was actually very annoying. Television camera people were around all day.”

Back to my schizophrenic round – it featured a birdie, and an eagle that earned $125 from the skins game, a number of nice pars … and, from the other end of the spectrum, a four-putt, three double-bogeys and a triple-bogey.

Despite hitting the ball well most of the day, I displayed the short game of a blacksmith with a nervous disorder. I turned what should have been a lead-contending round into an undistinguished 85 that put me firmly in 18th place out of 42 players in a flight of players with handicaps from 8.1 to 8.5.

The good news is that there are three competitive rounds remaining … and the weather report is excellent for the rest of the week. More golf … more stories.