The top amateur golfers in South Carolina are in action this week playing in the annual South Carolina Golf Association State Amateur Championship.
This year the Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach is hosting the championship and the opportunity to compete for a state title at the legendary club has elevated interest and entry well above the normal number for a state am.
“We get great response for our state am where ever it is played, but there are some courses that are high up on just about every golfer’s list,” said Biff Lathrop, the Executive Director of the SCGA.
Entrys for the SCGA Amateur usually total around 300, but when the tournament is held at some courses the number goes way up and the Dunes is one of those courses.
“We have topped 400 entrants a few times. When we play at Chanticleer (Greenville Country Club), Thornblade or last year at Debordieu our qualifying tournaments fill up quickly because the possibility of playing a week of golf on these great courses is a rare opportunity,” said Lathrop.
The Robert Trent Jones designed course at the club has hosted a US Women’s Amateur, the PGA Professional National Championship and The PGA Senior Tour championship for six years in the 1990s.
This will only be the third time the SCGA Amateur will be played on the course that is annually on most lists of top-100 golf courses you can play.
The first time the State Am was played at the club was in 1954 when Preston Hennies won the championship.
The second SCGA Amateur played at the club was in 1987.
Retired Clemson golf coach Larry Penley won the first of what would be two straight state titles.
Penley, who has been honored by college golf coaches with Hall of Fame recognition, is also a member of the SCGA Hall of Fame.
While his outstanding coaching career played a major part in his HOF selection, winning two straight state Amateurs solidified his position among the SCGA’s all-time greats.
Penley remembers what a “big deal” it was just to play a championship event at The Dunes.
“It has always been one of the premier courses in the southeast. It is a great layout, the course just had everything and it was always a pleasure to play it,” he said.
Shortly after having his amateur status returned, Penley finished as the runner-up in the 1986 Amateur to Marion Dantzler at Cobbs Glen in Anderson.
Penley was looking forward to playing at the Dunes Club, but he wasn’t expecting much from his game.
Penley was just a few years into his return to Clemson as the coach. He came to Myrtle Beach to consult with one of the top instructors of the day Tom Tomasello.
“I was a young coach and my technical knowledge wasn’t very good. I needed some help so I could help my young players,” he recalled.
His session with Tamasello helped to improve his technical knowledge and he also got a lesson himself before the State Am.
“I came down a day early to get a lesson and it helped. I didn’t see it coming. In the practice round I shot a 75, but it kicked in during the tournament,” he said.
Penley shot a 277 total for the championship..
“I kind of remember Kevin King, (1987 runner-up) and I were the only golfers to finish under par,” he said.
Penley won the State Am the following year at Turtle Point on Kiawah Island, but the win at the Dunes Club was a highlight of his amateur playing days.
“I was tickled to death to play there for five days and winning made it really special. The Dunes Club is special to me and lots of golfers. It has stood the test of time,” he offered.
This year’s field will include 144 players. Fifty-one golfers are exempt into the field leaving just under 100 places decided in qualifying tournaments around the state.
The defending champion, University of Indiana golfer Harry Reynolds, from Greenville, will try to back up his win at Debordieu last year.
Former champions Todd White, Lee Palms, and Tyler Gray have all entered to play this year.
“We are so thankful to have the opportunity to play our state championship at The Dunes. We know it will be an incredible experience for all the golfers,” concluded Lathrop.
Use this link to keep track of the live scoring at the SCGA Amateur Thursday August 4th thru Sunday August 7th https://www.golfgenius.com/pages/3369649