The seemingly unattainable has become attainable, and the long wait is over.
Myrtle Beach will host its first PGA Tour event next year.
The inaugural Myrtle Beach Classic will be held at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club next year on dates that are to be announced, and the tour has committed to a contract that will bring a tournament to The Dunes Club for four consecutive years through 2027.
PGA Tour and Myrtle Beach tourism officials announced the tournament at a press conference Wednesday morning at The Dunes Club.
The tournament will be held the same week as a more high-profile designated elevated event with a purse of at least $20 million and a limited field of 70 to 80 of the tour’s top players.
The Myrtle Beach event will feature a full field, which is generally 144 players or more, of tour members who don’t qualify for the elevated event, and it will have a purse of $3.9 million.
PGA Tour vice president Kelly Jensen said Wednesday that the Myrtle Beach Classic will likely be held in late spring or early summer.
Myrtle Beach’s place on tour
The PGA Tour elevated seven regular tournaments this year to have $20 million purses – regular weekly tour events have purses averaging slightly more than $8 million – in response to the creation of the LIV Golf series and its exorbitant payouts and bonuses.
Elevated events in 2024 will feature no-cut limited fields. The only elevated event in May this year is the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., which was held last week, while elevated events in June are the Memorial Tournament in Ohio from June 1-4 and Travelers Championship in Connecticut from June 22-25.
The full 2024 PGA Tour schedule will be released this summer, Jensen said.
The Myrtle Beach area has hosted a myriad of significant pro and amateur tournaments, but never a PGA Tour event.
Funding has always been a primary roadblock since there is little industry or major corporations based in the area.
But Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO Karen Riordan was adamant about Golf Town USA finally hosting a PGA Tour event, and the chamber is strongly behind the event financially as its title sponsor through Visit Myrtle Beach.
“I felt [a PGA Tour event] is absolutely appropriate for Myrtle Beach,” Riordan said. “. . . Why not Myrtle Beach, South Carolina? We are the golf capital of the world and I think it’s a perfect fit.”
The chamber has become more involved in notable sporting events in recent years with its organizational and financial support of the Myrtle Beach Invitational college basketball tournament at Coastal Carolina University and Myrtle Beach Bowl college football game, which are both televised on ESPN networks. National television coverage is expected for the Myrtle Beach Classic.
“We do have a history of looking at major marquee events in the sports world that we think are really going to help the whole destination, so we decided to do that again,” Riordan said.
Golf Tourism Solutions, a marketing and technology agency that represents the Grand Strand market and is a marketing partner with the chamber, and the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism are also expected to contribute to the funding of the event.
SCPRT director Duane Parrish said financial support of the tournament is included in a 2024 state budget that is expected to be voted on by the S.C. legislature in the coming weeks, and he expects the state contribution to be six figures next year.
SCPRT annually contributes to the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island and Korn Ferry Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greenville, and recently signed a five-year media buy and marketing agreement for $2.5 million annually with the PGA Tour and international golf tour/package operators based in the United Kingdom.
The tour is tasked with finding a tournament operator that will manage the event and bring in additional sponsors.
The tournament will benefit area charities. Jensen said the PGA Tour’s minimum charitable contribution through a tournament is $225,000. “Once [the tournament operator] gets selected they’ll develop the strategy to plan around growing the charitable dollars,” Jensen said.
Changes to The Dunes Club coming
The Dunes Club hosted the Senior Tour Championship – now known as the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup Championship – for six years from 1994-99 before the event moved to TPC Myrtle Beach in 2000 prior to leaving the area.
The Robert Trent Jones design that opened in 1948 has also hosted the PGA of America’s national club pro championship, a U.S. Women’s Open and the finals of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, among other high-profile tournaments.
The course will be lengthened and altered slightly to play up to 7,375 yards, according to Dunes Club president Collins Wakefield, with the addition of new tee boxes. It will play to a par of 71 with the changing of the par-5 eighth hole into a 453-yard par-4, as well.
“There are a lot of changes that they needed to make that they were happy to do and embraced,” Jensen said.
According to Wakefield, anticipated alterations include:
_ Elevation of the first tee box with a brick wall backing
_ Moving of the par-4 second hole’s tee box to the left and back 30 yards to create more of a true dogleg left
_ Extension of the par-4 sixth hole’s tee box 15 yards
_ Building of a new tee box for the eighth hole behind the seventh green to allow for the conversion to a par-4.
_ Extension of the par-4 14th hole 45 yards to 495 yards with a new elevated back tee box.
_ Planting of zoysia grass to replace Bermudagrass on all tee boxes largely to assist the health of teeing grounds in heavily shaded areas
_ Enlarging and enhancing of the practice putting green and short game practice area, and extension of a net at the back of the driving range
S.C.’s long PGA Tour history, and future
The PGA Tour has been in South Carolina for 55 years with the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links.
The state has been home to a second PGA Tour event in each of the past two years, as Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland has hosted a pair of events that were displaced by the coronavirus pandemic.
It hosted the relocated 2021 RBC Canadian Open and the 2022 CJ Cup, which was created as an event in Korea.
Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course has hosted the state’s most prolific events in the PGA Championship in both 2012 and 2021, and the 1991 Ryder Cup.
Jensen envisions players making the week of the Myrtle Beach Classic a family vacation, similar to the way many players approach the RBC Heritage.
“What I can see here is this will be a very family-friendly place where the pros will want to bring their families to come and enjoy,” Jensen said. “There will be a lot of things for the rest of the family to do while they’re playing golf. . . . It’s just a very relaxed atmosphere.”
Riordan said the four-year contract could be the beginning of a longer relationship with the PGA Tour.
“We felt like this is the right way to step into this,” Riordan said. “After the four years we could make a decision to continue to renew it as is or potentially do something different, but right now we’re really, really happy with a $3.9 million purse and doing it as that.”